Canada's Hannah Schmidt celebrates her victory on the podium following the women's final of a World Cup ski cross event at Nakiska Ski Resort in Kananaskis, Alta., Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Back-to-back gold for Hannah Schmidt at Ski Cross World Cup in Nakiska

After capturing three medals on Saturday, Team Canada athletes had another dream-worthy day on the slopes of Nakiska, Alberta, adding two more medals to their haul at the FIS Ski Cross World Cup.

Hannah Schmidt raced to her second gold medal of the weekend in the women’s big final. It was another double podium for Team Canada, with Brittany Phelan finishing in the bronze medal position. France’s Marielle Berger Sabbatel finished the day with the silver medal.

In the small final, Marielle Thompson and India Sherret finished fifth and sixth, respectively. Abby McEwen finished tenth overall.

On the men’s side, Carson Cook finished eighth and Kevin Drury tenth in the small final.

Schmidt, Howden lead trio of Canadians to Ski Cross World Cup podium in Nakiska

A day earlier, Hannah Schmidt of Ottawa and North Vancouver’s Marielle Thompson captured first and second place in the women’s race, while Reece Howden of Cultus Lake, British Columbia, took the top spot on the men’s side.

In a highly contested race, Swedish favourite and incoming World Cup leader Sandra Naeslund made it through the first round but had to pull out and not start the second round. While Canadians already had podium potential heading into the event, her absence opened the opportunity window even more.

Schmidt and Thompson battled with each other throughout the final heat, with the former overtaking the latter after Thompson had reached the first turn in the lead. Crossing the finish line, Schmidt secured the second win of her career and season, edging out Thompson by less than half a second.

For Thompson, the podium finish marked the 61st of her career and second of the season.

While the two Canadians took the top two spots, Switzerland’s Fanny Smith finished with the bronze medal, and France’s Marielle Berger-Sabbatel rounded out the big final. Moments earlier, Canada’s India Sherret and Brittany Phelan finished sixth and seventh, qualifying for the small final.

“It’s awesome coming down with the home crowd cheering; I don’t think there’s anything like it in the world,” Schmidt said post-race. “Mar and I battled in the semis and the finals, and it’s amazing to stand on the podium with her.”

“It’s sweet to see Hannah get the win today,” added Thompson. “Very special to share our 1-2 with Canada.”

On the men’s side, Howden’s victory highlighted an otherwise tough day for Canadian skiers, as World Cup rankings leader Jared Schmidt could not advance out of his first-round heat. For Howden, however, the win marks the 10 of his career and second in Nakiska, the same course he picked up his first career win on in 2020.

France’s Terence Tchiknavorian claimed second place, while 37-year-old Swiss veteran Alex Fiva made his way onto the podium for the first time since 2022, finishing third.

“The start of the season had some ups and downs, but I always felt like the foundation was there, and today was the day,” said Howden. “I just kept building confidence with every heat today, and by the end, I was feeling really strong in the start.”

“It means a lot to win here and to share it with everyone. It’s more than my success, it’s shared with all the volunteers who worked so hard this week and to be able to perform in front of family and friends is very rewarding.”

Racing continues on Sunday in Nakiska, the lone Canadian stop of the 2023-24 FIS Ski Cross World Cup, with Howden, Schmidt, Kevin Drury, and Carson Cook qualified on the men’s side, joined by Thompson, Schmidt, Sherret, Phelan, Abby McEwan and Emeline Bennett qualified for the women’s bracket.