Snowboard Cross World Cup
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RACE RECAP: THOMPSON AND LEMAN CAP OFF 2016/17 WORLD CUP SEASON WITH SX WINS AT BLUE MOUNTAIN



Blue Mountain, CAN - The 2016/17 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup season came to a close in spectacular fashion on Sunday afternoon, with Canada's Marielle Thompson and Brady Leman capping off a ski cross celebration for the host squad with victories at the World Cup finals in Blue Mountain (CAN)

Sunday was the first ski cross World Cup competition at Blue Mountain in five years, but in an interesting case of history repeating itself the final result was a carbon copy for the Canadians, with Thompson and Leman on top and Chris Delbosco coming in second in the men's competition, just as those three found themselves back in February 2012.

This time around, however, things were made even sweeter, as those three and the rest of the Canadian team found themselves awarded with the ski cross Nations Cup trophy by competition's end.

Thompson tops off crystal globe-winning 2016/17 with home win

With the 2016/17 ski cross World Cup title and crystal globe all locked up before even dropping in on Sunday - the third crystal globe of her career - the only pressure on Thompson's shoulders was the expectations of the Canadian fans, and she lived up to those expectations with aplomb.

Lined up against Sandra Naeslund (SWE), Fanny Smith (SUI), and Brittany Phelan (CAN) in the big final, Thompson pulled what was probably her slowest start of the day, falling in behind Naeslund and locking into an early battle with Smith.

However, heading into the icy, diving third corner of the Blue Mountain course, Thompson took a daring high line, setting herself up for a pass on Naeslund around the next corner and grabbing hold of a lead she wouldn't let go.

Naeslund pushed Thompson right to the very end, but just couldn't find a chance to make a move on the smooth Canadian. Holding her lead over the final jump and across the line, Thompson took her seventh victory of the season and the 20th of her career at the venue where it all got started for her five years earlier.

"It feels really good to win on home soil, and pretty cool that it was a repeat of last time we were here," Thompson said from the finish area, globe in hand, "To take the win and get the globe here in Canada in front of my friends and family is indescribable.

"I did not crush the start in the big final and I got stuck behind Sandra," Thompson went on when asked to describe her race, "But I knew on this course I just had to be patient and wait it out for the right moment. My coach said that I was a little gutsy in my choice of timing for that pass, but it was all just in the heat of the moment. Sandra's an awesome competitor, so to be able to pass her and take the win is big."

Naeslund would hold on for second, while Smith would round out the podium in third, as the top three ladies of the 2016/17 season finished the competition in Blue Mountain in just the way they would finish up on the final Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup rankings.

For Phelan, the 2016/17 ladies Rookie of the Year, the fourth-place result on the day was the best of her career and the highlight of a strong season that saw her make finals in every competition, earning six top-8 results.

Leman and Delbosco make magic happen with 1-2 result

The men's competition featured one of the most dominant performances we've seen by any competitor all season by Leman, as the 30-year-old lead from top to bottom in every one of his heats for an impressive victory.

And it wasn't a lightweight big final he found himself in at the end, either, with Delbosco, reigning world champion Filip Flisar (SLO), and Terence Tchiknavorian joining him in the gates. All three of those athletes came into the final on the strength of some fine skiing of their own through the lead-up heats, with none more impressive than Delbosco and his fourth-to-first-place pass in the semi-finals.

However, no one would be able to touch Leman in the big final. Pulling the fastest start, he made his way smoothly and easily through the tricky top section of the course before putting down the pedal and pulling away through the snaky middle section.

Delbosco fell in behind Leman to fend off several attacks from Flisar, while Tchiknavorian was largely shut out of any opportunity to make his way into podium position, and the finish line would see the Canadians in first and second, with Flisar in third and Tchiknavorian denied a podium for France.

"It was a perfect race," said Leman from the finish, "It doesn't happen very often that you can lead top to bottom for four runs in a row. Everyone's so good these days that usually you've gotta make some passes at some point. But I was able to keep finding a little extra speed at the top and a little extra motivation from the home crowd.

"It's an amazing day for our team," Leman went on, "Del and I going one-two for the men, Marielle and Britt bit taking first and fourth for the ladies... We just showed that our team is deep and everyone's still rolling strong at the end of the year. Taking home the Nations Cup is something that means a lot to our team. We work a lot on team values and team culture even though ski cross is an individual sport. It's great for us to reach this goal."

With the win, Leman was able to lock down second overall on the 2016/17 Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup leaderboard, finishing with 721 points - 42 back of the 763 held by crystal globe winner Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA), and 82 points ahead of third overall Alex Fiva (SUI) and his 639.

Chapuis wasn't on hand to claim his crystal globe in Blue Mountain, electing to rest at home ahead of the upcoming Sierra Nevada 2017 Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships. However, it should not be lost in the mix this was the third consecutive World Cup title for the 28-year-old - making him the first man to accomplish the feat in ski cross World Cup history.

The men's Rookie of the Year honours went to Italy's Siegmar Klotz, the former Alpine standout who made the move to ski cross at the start of this season at immediately settled in to his new discipline, making it through to finals in nine of 14 events and recording three top-10 results.

Full ladies' results
Ladies' big final highlight video
Final Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup ladies' standings
Full men's results
Men's big final highlight video
Final Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup men's standings

About FIS: As the governing body of international skiing and snowboarding, FIS manages the Olympic disciplines of Alpine Skiing, Cross-Country Skiing, Ski Jumping, Nordic Combined, Freestyle Skiing and Snowboarding, including setting the international competition rules. Through its 116 member nations, more than 6'500 FIS ski and snowboard competitions are staged annually.

SAVED BY SKI CROSS: CHRIS DEL BOSCO



Ski Cross saved Chris Del Bosco. This relatively new sport—it debuted at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics—sets four (sometimes six) racers helmet to helmet down a course of jumps, rollers and high-banked turns. Alpine Canada athlete Del Bosco started his career as a teenager skiing in several Alpine disciplines, but following a bumpy and prolonged off-slope fall, he found Ski Cross just as it was beginning its ascension as one of the world's favourite snow spectacles. We recently spoke to the 34-year-old World Cup championX Games gold medalist and two-time Olympian as he was returning home to Montreal after a training camp in Switzerland.

What can you tell us about your plans for the upcoming season?
We're coming into a World Championship year and our Olympic selection starts this season as well, so it's going to be busy for sure. I've been second overall—four times—so I want to gun for the overall: one more step up.

What do you like about Ski Cross?
The first one down, wins: it's a pure form of racing, head to head, with lots of tactics involved. It may not look that way from the outside, but there's a lot of variables like updraft, jumps, turns—a lot of adapting and reacting.

You'll be competing in the World Cup Ski Cross at Blue Mountain Resort in March 2017. How do you approach a course?
Obviously by the day of the event, you've trained on the track and you've qualified, so you know where you sit as far as how fast you're skiing. And you might know where there are potential passing areas, so you have that loose game plan but when you're in the start gate, you have to have more of a blank slate—because it all changes depending on whether you get the hole shot, or make passes. Every heat is different.

Blue Mountain is a great hill for Ski Cross. We don't need the same vertical drop that you would in an Alpine event. And the layout has worked really well the last couple of times.


Chris Del Bosco, Tristan Tafel, Egor Korotkov and Michael Forslund. Photo: GEPA pictures/ Markus Oberlaender

Ski Cross is a free-for-all with four (sometimes six) skiers going pell-mell. How do you strategize in such a environment?
There's a certain way to have to ski to protect your line…and if you're behind you get to set some stuff up where you might be able to take a little different entrance into a section and carry more speed out. It all really depends on what's going on around you. It's all reaction; you have to be ready for anything.

What are your takeaways from a race?
I'm very self-critical. Sometimes you can be too hard on yourself and forget to keep the good things also in mind. When a race doesn't go as well, sometimes things just happen—you get tangled with somebody, and there's really not much you can take out of that. But if you make a mistake on a feature and a couple of people blow by you, you know what went wrong.

In the final at the Vancouver 2010 Games, you had the Bronze medal locked down until you attempted a last-minute pass and fell. Are you sick of talking about it?
No. It was a really cool experience, just on that day, it didn't work out for me. But I wouldn't change anything now. Looking back, that's just how I race. If I can improve my position, I'll go for it. It works out most of the time. It didn't work out that time.

Would you rather try for Gold and fall, instead of settling for Bronze?
In Ski Cross there's no judging—it's just the first one down. So you can't ever take it easy. Like if you're in second and you think 'I've got this locked up', there's always the third, fourth, fifth position that can sneak in there. So you're always going for that next top spot.

I had a pretty poor start in the Olympic final and I pulled into third about halfway down and I was pulling on the guys in front. There was just one last feature and I thought I might be able to get one of them. There were some variable conditions and I locked on edge. And then, well, you saw what happened. But I don't like to settle.


Chris Del Bosco, Marielle Thompson and Brady Leman     Photo: GEPA pictures / Markus Oberlaender

Before the 2010 Olympics, you experienced some off-slope struggles with substance abuse, culminating in a near-death experience where you ended up passed out and near-hypothermic in a Vail, CO ditch with a broken neck. How did you come back from that?
With a lot of support from my family, my sister. I fought [addiction] for many years until finally I realized there might be an issue there. So I got some help. It put everything in perspective for me. And then a lot of things lined up. Ski Cross was added to the Olympic program, the Canadian team was formed and I got the call. I can't really explain how it all happened. When I was younger and an Alpine racer, my dream was to be an Olympian. But that ended when I was 18 and got into trouble. Later, Ski Cross came around just when I was trying to put the pieces back together. So I had this amazing second chance.

The Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup goes down at Blue Mountain March 2-5, 2017.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?



Calgary, Alta. (September 29, 2016) - All three Alpine Canada teams were back on snow in September gearing up for the season. Canada Ski Cross completed their first camp in Switzerland before heading over to Italy. The alpine and para alpine ski teams found snow in the southern hemisphere in Chile and Argentina. 

Click here to interact with the map to catch up with your Canadian Ski Teams.