For the 21st time the FIS Ski Cross World Cup was held in Innichen/ San Candido where we saw some spectacular racing on this 1.3 kilometer long and fast course on the first of two races on Wednesday, 21 December. Underneath the Unesco World Heritage Site Dolomite Mountain range we saw some very tight racing on the women’s side with Sandra Naeslund winning for the fourth time in a row this season and Mathias Graf showing his best skiing and taking home his second career win.
Naeslund with her twelves win in a row
In Wednsday’s big final women, we saw Qualification winner Sandra Naeslund (SWE) in red, Fanny Smith (SUI) in green, the young Swede Linnea Mobaerg (SWE) in blue and Marielle Thompson (CAN) in yellow.
Out of the gate, it was Sandra Naeslund leading the heat with the fastest reaction time into the start straight, followed by Fanny Smith, Marielle Thompson and Linnea Mobaerg, which made it to her first big final in her young career.
Till the first intermediate the four athletes were skiing one after each other like a train. Right after the intermediate 1, Thompson came too short on a double roller, which slowed her down and leaded to a bigger gap between Naeslund and Smith and the two persecutors.
Mobaerg came really close to Thompson a view times during the rest of the course, but she didn`t manage to overtake the experienced Canadian and so got fourth in the End.
Also, everybody thought, that dominating Naeslund will also win this race smoothly, Smith managed to ski a much better line than Naeslund in the penultimate turn, gained a lot of speed und turned into the finish straight head-to-head with her Swedish rival. Naeslund was pretty sure she “has no chance” seeing the fast Swiss coming closer, so both athletes were giving their best to push themselves forward over the last rollers and crossing the finish line first.
In the End it was again Sandra Naeslund crossing the finish line first and winning for the fourth time in the fourth race this season.
Naeslund is now also officially unbeaten for a whole year.
Graf showing some excellent skiing leading to his second victory
Next to the Qualification winner Mathias Graf (AUT) in red, we had three Canadians in the gate for the big final men of Wednesday’s FIS Ski Cross World Cup who had something against the win of the Austrian. In blue we saw Kristofor Mahler (CAN), in green Reece Howden (CAN) and in yellow Brady Leman (CAN).
Howden and Graf with the best starts were leading head-to-head into the start straight, with Howden taking over the lead right before the first turn, followed by Leman and Mahler. As Thompson, also Graf came short in the roller section right after the intermediate 1 and Leman got the chance to pass him. Both skied into the next turn skiies-by-skiies, with Graf showing the best skiing of all four athletes. He not only won back his second position against Leman, but also overtook Howden, who also made a mistake in the turn.
From now on Graf had Howden on his ski tails trying to catch up with the strong Austrian, but from turn to turn, which were the key elements today, the gap between Graf and his Canadian persecutors got bigger and bigger.
Graf who said about himself that he is “skiing giant slalom better than ever” maintained the upper hand and wrapped up his second World Cup victory, followed by Howden in second, Leman in third and Mahler in fourth position.
Old and new World Cup leaders: Sandra Naeslund (SWE) and Mathias Graf (AUT)
Let’s see if the Qualification winners for Thursday’s race (22.12.2022), which are at the same time the winners of the first race here in Innichen, Sandra Naeslund and Mathias Graf will also dominate the race tomorrow or if someone else has something against it.
TV Info for Thursday, 22.12.2022 at 12:00 CET: