Feature photo: Kelsey Serwa at Sochi 2014.
The two FIS World Cup finals in Innichen, Italy have concluded with Canadians alternating podium days at the final ski cross races until the new year.
Olympic women’s ski cross silver medallist, Serwa, was second in Innichen, Italy on Sunday in the fifth World Cup final of the season. It was Serwa’s first podium spot in the current competition calendar after three consecutive top 10 finishes.
Serwa had a very tough path to her medal, taking on overall World Cup leader Anna Holmlund of Sweden twice. In the semifinals, Holmlund and Serwa finished 1-2 to advance to the final, where Andrea Limbacher of Austria edged the Canadian for the top spot. Alizee Baron of France was third keeping Holmlund off the podium, though both women gaining valuable points for the overall title chase, where the Swede leads her French rival.
Serwa finished 10th in Innichen a day earlier, her third straight top 10 result following sixth and ninth places at the previous world cups in Val Thorens, France. Up to seventh in the standings, Serwa now moves 11 points behind Alpine Canada teammate and Olympic champion Marielle Thompson, who missed the two finals in Innichen after suffering a fall and hip injury during qualifications.
According to FIS, this marked Serwa’s first trip to a World Cup podium since achieving the same feat in Innichen in 2013. After winning the Olympic silver medal, Serwa took last season off to recover from injuries and attend school.
And there you have it, the final Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup podium of 2015! Congrats to @victorohlingnorberg and Andrea Limbacher for their victories on an incredible day of competition. Now it's time for a little holiday breather… #skicross #fisfreestyle #fisskicross #innichen #sancandido #italy #ski #skiing #podium
In the men’s division, both Leman and Chris Del Bosco were aiming for their fourth podium in five races, but it was not to be. Del Bosco was eliminated early, while Leman couldn’t get out of the semifinals. He did win the small final to finish in fifth place and overtake Del Bosco for second overall in World Cup standings behind Jean-Frederic Chapuis of France, who beat Leman in the final on the previous day (more on this below).
Chapuis finished second on Sunday to move ahead of Del Bosco in the World Cup standings.
The World Cup takes a short break before the next set of men’s and women’s finals in Watles, Italy on January 10. A stop in France follows the next week before the tour arrives in Nakiska, Alberta where qualifications will be on January 22 followed by finals the next day.
The hot start to the 2015-16 FIS World Cup ski cross season by Olympian Brady Leman extended to Innichen, Italy on Saturday when he grabbed second place in the first of two finals this weekend.
Only man to beat Leman on Saturday was Olympic champion Jean-Frederic Chapuis of France, who was dominant through the qualification and elimination rounds, although the Canadian gave him a fight in the final.
The final four competitors competing for three podium spots started with each looking for breathing room early until Chapuis stretched the field by pulling away. Hot on his heels, Leman pursued and there were a few times it looked as if the leader could be reeled in, only for the Frenchman to wisely use the course to close any perceived gaps with flawless skiing.
Fans may recall at Sochi 2014, Leman was the only non-Frenchman in the men’s Olympic ski cross final, where France’s teamwork saw their skiers sweep the podium at Leman’s expense. Canada later filed a complaint on technical grounds against France that was dismissed. Saturday’s race was far less contentious due to Chapuis’ overall dominance. Johannes Rohweck of Austria was third.
Canada’s Chris Del Bosco continued to lead the overall World Cup points race in men’s ski cross despite missing the podium for the first time this season. He will have another chance on Sunday, as will Chapuis and Leman – the two men closely chasing Del Bosco for the overall title.
On the women’s side, Marielle Thompson suffered a hip injury during qualifications, while Kelsey Serwa was 10th on Saturday. Thompson will not race on Sunday, while Serwa will have another chance having qualified through to the quarterfinals.