GRASGEHREN, GER, 3 FEB 2013 - After all the weather-related trials and tribulations of the past several days and all the false starts and program adjustments, an incredible and dedicated organizing team was able to put in the necessary work through Saturday and into the wee hours of the morning on Sunday to pull off what turned out to be an exceptional race at the Audi FIS Freestyle World Cup ski cross tour in Grasgehren, Germany.
Despite the often heavily falling snow, the track was in excellent shape for racing, and in front of a boisterous German crowd the men and ladies' of ski cross put on an impressive show. And at the end of the day, it was the two most experience skiers on the World Cup circuit who were able to overcome the difficulties of the weekend and grind out the wins.
On the men's side, that veteran was Tomas Kraus (CZE) who, at 38, is one of the oldest and most decorated men on the World Cup circuit. Kraus – a two-time former world champion - has been having another strong year, with six top-10 finishes out of seven races and two podiums. Grasgehren, however, was his first victory in nearly three years, and “Mr. Ski Cross” pulled it off with style.
After qualifying only 27th, Kraus won his first two heats and came second in the semi-finals to Armin Niederer (SUI). In the final the Czech had the best start, but had to battle with tough Swede Victor Oehling Norberg through the top section of the course. Gradually he pulled out a slim lead through the steep jumps of the course's middle section, which he held on to for the victory.
While it looked for all the world like Oehling Norberg had 2nd place in the bag, he was passed at the finish line on a last second lunge by Tristan Tafel (CAN). Tafel has pulled off several remarkable passes so far through the 2012-13 season, but his slingshot over the final jump to move into 2nd at the line in Grasgehren was perhaps his finest, as he made up five meters of ground with only 60 meters left in the race to edge Oehling Norberg by a finger.
Swiss star Armin Niederer skied well, but was pushed to the back in the final and couldn't find an opening to pass. He finished 4th.
Organizers pulled off an epic feat to run Sunday's race, overcoming rain, wind, and heavy snow earlier in the week to prepare a first-rate track and host an excellent race
Veteran Tomas Kraus (CZE) registered his first World Cup victory since 2009; with the win, Kraus moves into 3rd on the SX overall leader board, behind Swiss skiers Armin Niederer and Alex Fiva
With a brilliant last-second pass, Tristan Tafel (CAN) took 2nd place and scored the second podium of his career; his first also came in Germany, with a win last year in Bischofswiesen
With his 3rd place result, Victor Oehling Norberg quietly moved into 6th on the SX overall list
Tomas Kraus - “It was a tough day. We didn't really have any training, we had two days off skis, and we didn't know what was going to happen, what was going on, if the slope was good or not. But from the beginning it was ok. With my number for qualification – 1 – it was not easy to get a good time. But my start was so good today.”
“I don't want to say that I'm the guy who can win everywhere. But I'm in good shape, I don't have any injuries, so why not, you know? Here it finally all came together.”
The Audi FIS World Cup ski cross tour now moves to Sochi, Russia, for a huge week for freestyle as the test events are staged in the lead up to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.