KRASNAYA POLYANA, RUS, 18 FEB 2013 - As has been the case since the start of the Sochi World Cup Olympic test event, weather was again an issue on Monday, forcing the postponement of the scheduled qualification runs. With a little help from Mother Nature, however, organizers and officials are hoping to get a full program in tomorrow, and finish off what has been a an always-entertaining several days in Russia on a positive note.
Here's a quick look at what to watch out for in tomorrow's race:
In no other freestyle event contested this week at Krasnaya Polyana has there been more parity among nations. In ski cross, racers representing nine countries fill the top 10 places in the World Cup standings.
However, two Swiss skiers are perched on top. Alex Fiva leads countryman Armin Niederer by a mere point, 424-423.
Fiva, 29, has two victories this season, those coming at Innichen/San Candido, Italy, in December, and at Les Contamines, France, in January. He also finished runner-up at the season-opening event in Nakiska, Canada, earlier in December. FIVA has four career World Cup wins.
Like his teammate, Niederer, who will turn 26 later this month, also has two World Cup triumphs this season. His victories were in Nakiska and Val Thorens, France, both in December. He also finished third in Telluride, Colorado, in December and in Megeve, France, in January.
This event will also mark the return of two-time X Games champion Chris Del Bosco (CAN). The 30-year-old veteran has missed all competitions this season after separating his shoulder during training prior to the opening event in Nakiska and having surgery. Two weeks ago he was a forerunner in Germany.
Tomas Kraus (CZE) comes to Krasnaya Polyana fresh from victory at the last tour stop in Germany earlier this month. The Czech is third behind his Swiss rivals in the World Cup standings. Kraus, 38, is a two-time world champion, and has accumulated 15 tour victories since he made his debut in November 2002.
Brady Leman (CAN) was hot back in December, speeding to consecutive second-place finishes in Telluride and in Val Thoren, France, before falling off the pace. However, the 26-year-old, who stands fourth in the standings, had a respectable fifth-place result to regain form earlier this month in Germany.
John Teller (USA) captured his second career World Cup win last month in Megeve and should also be considered among the contenders.
Despite the names at the top of the standings, ski cross continues to prove unpredictable, and numerous racers are capable of emerging victorious in any given race.
Fanny Smith (SUI) began the season with consecutive victories in Nakiska, Telluride and Val Thorens but has since struggled to reproduce that form. Although the 20-year-old was third in Les Contamines in January, she has finished 35th and 13th in her past two events. The rising talent remains the World Cup leader.
Ophelie David (FRA) has been the undisputed queen of ski cross since its inclusion on the FIS World Cup circuit and is a seven-time season champion. However, the 36-year-old skier lost her stronghold on the title over the past two seasons, finishing second last year and fifth in 2011. Earlier this month, David claimed a record 25th World Cup victory in Germany and she also was third in Megeve prior to that. With a solid showing in Krasnaya Polyana, she could reclaim the World Cup lead from Smith.
David, a four-time X Games champion, entered the Vancouver 2010 Games as an overwhelming favourite but faltered and had to settle for a disappointing ninth.љ The veteran racer from Alpe d’Huez will be hoping to redeem herself next February at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games and Tuesday’s competition will be important for her preparation.
Kelsey Serwa (CAN) has come on strongly recently to be third in the season standings, bolstered by a victory in Innichen in December and a second in Megeve last month. The 23-year-old was third in the World Cup standings last season and has seven career victories to her credit.
Anna Woerner (GER) was the surprise winner in Megeve and the 23-year-old has the potential to challenge for top honors here in Russia.
-BRIAN PINELLI, SOCHI TEST EVENT NEWS SERVICE