Team Canada's final tune-up for ski cross before next month's Olympics
It was a high stakes atmosphere at Nakiska’s 2022 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup as the best of the best in ski cross competed – some for the last time – to qualify for next month's Winter Olympics in Beijing.
With Olympic qualifications on the line, the event which is already edge-of-your-seat viewing became practically heart stopping as racers hurtled down the course at impossible speeds, flying over jumps and balancing on their skis while jostling for the lead with three other competitors.
Team Canada’s Kevin Drury felt the pressure to win on home turf, after teammates Reece Howden, Chris Del Bosco and Brady Leman were all eliminated in quarter-final heats.
Drury — recently recovered from a broken leg last season — delivered, finishing the first day with a first-place podium finish.
“It feels fantastic and I’m going to take this momentum to Beijing,” he said after his win, and best finish of his season so far.
David Mobaerg of Sweden topped the podium – his brother Erik finishing fourth in the race. The podium was rounded out by German Tobias Mueller.
In the women’s heats three Canadians finished in the top seven. Lead by Hannah Schmidt in 5th, Courteny Hoffos – a Panorama athlete – in 6th, and Brittany Phelan in 7th.
“It was a pretty hectic day on the track,” said Hoffos. Hoffos has placed in the top 10 all season.
Sandra Naeslund of Sweden took the top spot for the sixth time on the World Cup circuit this season, continuing her dominance. Switzerland’s Fanny Smith, and Germany’s Daniela Maier filled out the rest of the podium, coming in 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Qualifying for the women’s big final, Canada’s Marielle Thompson squared up against Sandra Naeslund from Sweden, Fanny Smith, and French Baron Alizee on the demanding 1.2-kilometre Mighty Peace course.
Alizee did not leave the gate, receiving a DNS. Close contact on the second turn resulted in a crash between Smith and Thompson. Smith received a DNF.
Naeslund was able to run the rest of the course on her own, continuing her streak of standing on top of the podium.
Thompson got back on her skis, finishing the race and making a second-place podium finish. Teammates Hannah Schmidt and Tiana Gairns places 6th and 7th. Panorama’s athlete Courtney Hoffos made it to the quarter-finals, finishing in 11th overall.
Both Kris Mahler and Brady Leman of Canada qualified for the women’s big final, alongside German Florian Wilmsmann, and Swiss Ryan Regez.
The tight four-man final which often had the racers shoulder to shoulder on the course ended with Mahler winning his first victory since 2019 and his third career podium.
Leman finished fourth behind runner-up Wilmsmann, and Regez.