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Ofner takes first career win, while Howden on top for men in Val Thorens

Dec 21, 2020·Ski Cross
Katrin Ofner (AUT) on her way to her first World Cup victory © GEPA/Matic Klansek

Thanks to the efforts of the organizing committee of Val Thorens, FIS TV production partner Infront, and all  other stakeholders involved, we were thankfully able to witness the second of two Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup races scheduled for the French resort after Saturday's weather-cancelled race was rescheduled to Monday.

Needless to say, the athletes (along with all other parties involved) were extremely happy to be able to complete the full slate of action scheduled for the weekend, and gave it all they had for the last race before Christmas.

After a big day of competition on Sunday in Val Thorens, we knew it was going to be interesting to see who would have enough power and stamina left in them to fight through to the big final on what is one of the longest and toughest ski cross courses in the world.

Katrin Ofner takes maiden win in her 13th World Cup season

The four women able to battle their way to  for the last heat of the day included two of the finalists from Sunday's race in Marielle Thompson (CAN) and Jade Grillet-Aubert (FRA), who were joined there by Daniela Maier (GER) and Austria’s Katrin Ofner, who was absolutely on fire today.

The Austrian showed an exceptionally strong performance throughout Monday's competition with lightning-fast starts and even faster skis, and once again in the big final Ofner managed to pull out of the gate the quickest ahead of rising French star Grillet-Aubert, who was looking to get back on the podium after scoring her career's first in Sunday's race.

Behind Ofner and Grillet-Aubert, Maier and Thompsonheaded into the infamous Val Thorens negative turn in thrid and fourth, respectively. As she had done several times over the weekend, Thompson looked to take the highest line through the negative, but due to the icy course seemed to have trouble controlling her speed, causing her to drift down the negative turn, and cut off Maier’s line - even sliding over the German’s skis in the process.

Because Thompson was so low on the negative turn, it took her some time to get back into the right line, and in the meantime Maier managed to regain her speed, restarting her quest for third place when, suddenly, Grillet-Aubert, sitting in second, skied into Ofner’s skis and crashed, taking her out of the fight for the top position.

With no one around to challenge her, Ofner was able to blaze across the finish line for her long sought-after maiden World Cup win, which came in her 128th World Cup start. In the battle for second place, 24-year-old Maier managed to dominate, leaving Thompson to settle for third for the second day in a row.

“I am happy, I am so thankful – this win was really important today, not only for me, but also for the whole team and for everybody who supported me. Thanks a lot! I am just super happy and it feels like I still didn’t realize it so far,” a very emotional and happy Ofner commented after the race.

Reece Howden dominant throughout the day

Ready in the start gate for the last heat of the day on the men’s side were the previous day's race day winner Jonathan Midol (FRA) and his French teammate Francois Place (FRA), along with Ryan Regez (SUI) and Canada’s young gun Reece Howden.

Howden managed to grab the hole shot out of the gate and establish a solid lead early on, with Regez and Midol battling it  out behind him for second position, jockeying it out and trading positions several times.

However, and seemingly out of nowhere, Place zipped up from behind to to pass his teammate Midol and get into third position. Then, on the following negative turn, where we had seen so many game-changers happen throughout those two race days, Midol drifted off to the lowest line before coming back up to the pack super fast, losing control on his way into the hard right after the negative, and crashing out of the podium battle.

Howden and Regez remained in a tight battle through the bottom stretch of the Val Thorens course, but in the end it was Canada’s Reece Howden who walked away with his second World Cup win and with back-to-back podiums (second place on race day number one) in France.

“The race went really great. Yesterday I did well, too, but today I was able to clean up a few spots that I was lacking in yesterday and it worked out! My starts were fast and I was feeling really good today,” Howden said after the race.

The World Cup leaders after today’s competition are Fanny Smith (SUI), who finished in fifth place on Monday, winning the small final. She sits 119 points ahead of Marielle Thompson.

On the men’s side, today’s winner Reece Howden took over the leader bib with a 65 point margin ahead of Sweden’s David Mobaerg.

It is now time to pack things up and head home for the holiday break, so Happy Holidays to everyone - see you in the new year for more mind-blowing ski cross action, where we'll re-start the 2020/21 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup season in Montafon (AUT) on January 13-15!

Stay safe and healthy, everybody!


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