ARE, SWE, 17 MAR 2013 – On Sunday, the second of back-to-back Audi FIS Freestyle ski cross World Cup races wrapped up a jam-packed weekend of freestyle action from beautiful Are, Sweden, in epic style.
With one ski cross overall champion confirmed, one within inches of sealing the deal, a World Champion on the rise, and some incredible racing on display in general, there was no shortage of storylines being played out on the sun-kissed slopes of Are.
Most importantly, though, was the race itself, as Fanny Smith (SUI) and Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA) – both newly-minted as World Champion only a few days ago in Norway – were absolutely dominant on the day, with both skiers able to take top spot in qualifications before winning every heat on the way to their respective victories.
Smith was in complete control throughout the afternoon, powering out of the start gate to win hole-shot after hole-shot and proving untouchable through the rest of the fast, hard-corning course in each of heats. Her toughest challenge, fittingly, came in the big final, where she was matched up in stacked heat that included her teammate Katrin Mueller and the swift Canadian tandem of Marielle Thompson and Georgia Simmerling.
Thompson, last year's ski cross Crystal Globe winner, has been resurgent in recent weeks after a tough start to the season. In the big final Thompson was able move in tight behind Smith out of the gate as Mueller and Simmerling battled for third, before Simmerling hooked an edge and went down.
Mueller closed in on and than nearly got tangled up with Thompson and seemed to temporarily slow the Canadian's momentum. However, Thompson was able to get free, and gradually reeled Smith in up until the course's final drag strip, when a straight-shot to the finish saw the two 20 year olds cross the line within a meter of each other, with Smith claiming the win and getting one step closer to claiming the 2012-13 SX overall title.
On the men's side, Jean Frederic Chapuis continued the incredible hot streak that has seen him claim two victories and a third-place finish over the course of the last three races.
Last week, at the World Championships in Voss, Chapuis earned the distinction of being crowned ski cross World Champion despite not having a career World Cup victory to his name. On Sunday, Chapuis was able to rectify that situation, absolutely rocketing down the Are track from the start to the end of the day en route to claiming a commanding win in a tough big final that saw him pitted against SX second-overall Armin Niederer (SUI), French teammate Sylvain Maillier, and 2012 Crystal Globe winner Filip Flisar (SLO).
In adding the win to his 3rd place finish in the previous day's race, Chapuis also claimed the title of top man on the weekend, while Thompson – with a 5th place finish the day before to go along with Sunday's 2nd – was the top lady. For their efforts the two skiers picked up sizable bonuses to go along with a stack of fresh World Cup points and some good momentum heading into the freestyle World Cup finals next week in Sierra Nevada, SPA.
While Saturday's winner Alex Fiva was held off the podium on Sunday, his 5th place, small final victory gave him the points necessary to get clear of Niederer and lock up the 2012-13 men's ski cross Crystal Globe. Fiva's title is one part of a potential overall SX sweep for the Swiss should Fanny Smith be able to hold off Ophelie David (FRA) and claim the ladies' Globe next Sunday, and it marks a confirmation of an impressive year for the Swiss ski cross team.
Now, it's on to Sierra Nevada, where in one week's time the ski cross circuit will wrap up what has been a tough, gruelling, and endlessly entertaining 2012-13 World Cup season.
SMITH Fanny (SUI) – “I think the first day of qualies (on Friday) I took too much risk and I didn't make it through to the finals. So today I decided to ski a bit more safely, and I think it was better for my body! I know that in finals I can manage, and I had some good starts today and that was the key. I won my revenge from yesterday!”
“Ophelie got 5th today, so there's still not so much difference between us. I'm not sure what I need to do to take (the Crystal Globe), but I need to pass the first run, at least. But I'm not thinking about that, I just want to have fun in Sierra Nevada.”
CHAPUIS Jean Frederic (FRA) - “I think the World Championships made me pass one step higher in my skiing. I'm just so happy to make it every race into finals, and I want to keep it going as long as possible.”
“I know I have a good start and I ski very fast, but at the start of the season, I don't know why, but it didn't work. But it worked for the World Champs and today it worked and I'm so happy.”
FIVA Alex (SUI) - “I had a good weekend here in Are. Now in Spain I can fully enjoy the race, no pressure anymore. It was an amazing season for me, except for World Champs. But I raced almost every race to the finish and I'm really happy with that.”
Full ladies' results can be found here.Ladies' race video can be found here.
Full men's results can be found here.Men's race video can be found here.