Olympic test event kicks-off Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup

The time has finally come to hear the commands “Skiers ready? Attention? Go!” again. One thing is new - we are on a completely different part of the world right now. China that is, Secret Garden, to be precise. This probably rings a bell for most of winter sports fans, as it is the venue of the Olympic Winter Games 2022 and this weekend will be all in light of the Cross Olympic test events.

Although the journey to come here was a bit long and maybe also somewhat adventurous, everybody is very excited to be here to see this incredible venue with its already branded “Beijing 2022” logos in place, making for that special Olympic sparkle to happen.

The course is 1253 m long, its start is at an altitude of 2046m and it has 45 features. So, it looks like a promising new course here in China. For the test event, the course has been made almost identical as for the Olympics, however some features are built a little bit rounder and easier.

Probably also nobody expected it to be that cold here in China, however despite the low temperatures, the sun is putting a smile on the athlete’s faces and everybody is very much looking forward to be racing on what will be the Olympic track in February.

"It is really good to take a glimpse of the Olympic course here in China. It is a good course to start the World Cup tour with and get back into the flow of racing, but for sure for the Olympic Winter Games this course is going to be slightly adapted. It is great what people have done here to get ready for the highlight event," World Champion Alex Fiva (SUI) commented.

"I would definitely say it is an advantage to have gone through the travel to come here to see all the Covid-19 protocols in place, but also to see this course and to breathe some Olympic air. I am really looking forward to race here this weekend and I am pumped to be here," teammate Talina Gantenbein added.

Comebacks - women

Athletes have been in massive summer preparations for the Olympic season in gyms, summer camps, on glaciers and simply anywhere and everywhere around the world to be at their best, but for sure they are absolutely ready to send it now.

We are very happy to announce the comeback of PyeongChang 2018 silver medallist Brittany Phelan after a season off due to injury. It will be great to see her get out of that start gate again!

Also, Austria’s Andrea Limbacher is ready for her comeback after missing out an entire season
Oddly enough, the two athletes got injured at the same race back in 2019 in Megeve (FRA), but were really working hard on their rehab process and then to get back into racing action. We cannot wait!

On another note, we will not be seeing Sochi 2014 gold medallist Marielle Thompson in the start gate just yet. The Canadian is still recovering after a knee injury and while we have seen Thompson already back on snow, she will not want to rush into things, as it is such an important season. We hope to welcome her back to the circuit really soon!

Comebacks on the men’s side

On the men’s side, Brady Leman (CAN), who had missed out on the season finals last year due to a knee injury following a heavy crash in Bakuriani (GEO), is back and ready to send it. He is also the man to be chasing after this year, as he is the Olympic Champion of 2018 and everybody who knows Brady knows that he will be fighting to defend this title big time.

Another Canadian back at the circuit is Kevin Drury, the 2019/20 SX crystal globe winner. Unfortunately, Drury had suffered a season-ending knee injury quite early last season. But, Mr. “Quadzilla” made sure to get rehab going with full gas and made it in time to be back at the World Cup stage for the first race.

A shoutout also goes to Mr. Romain Detraz, who has been really fighting hard for a couple of years now, from injury to surgery to setback, back to surgery, back to rehab. It has not been easy, but the Swiss athlete sure is a fighter too and will make his comeback on the Chinese slopes. Bienvenue back, Romain!

Who to watch – women

Well, of course we will need to have a close look at all athletes, but based on where we have left off last year, here are our suggestions:

Fanny Smith (SUI): the winningest ski cross athlete up to date (29 victories) and PyeongChang 2018 bronze medallist and last year’s overall World Cup winner was just on fire last season. As Smith states, she doesn’t chase any records, but goes race after race, always focusing on one competition at the time and always striving to win. But we also know that Smith is very focused and determined, so we can expect a lot of her this year, is our guess.

Sandra Naeslund (SWE): The Idre Fjall 2021 World Champion and two-time SX crystal globe winner from Sweden has also 17 World Cup victories to her name. She is an exceptional skier and her winning mentality always make her go all the way and fight until the very last second. Especially with her rival Fanny Smith we can expect a lot of head-to-head battles this season again, for sure.

Alizee Baron (FRA): The 2019 and 2021 World Championships bronze medallist has also 19 World Cup podiums on her account so far. Baron had a strong comeback season last year after a one-year hiatus due to injury. But with her second rank finish in the overall World Cup standings by the end of the season, the French athlete definitely made a big statement.

Who to watch – men

We have already mentioned Brady Leman, who is entering the Olympic season as gold medal title defender.

Sticking to Canadian athletes for a minute, we must remind everyone once again of the unique achievement of Reece Howden becoming the SX overall crystal globe winner AND rookie of the year 2020/21. Howden was definitely unstoppable last year and we can only expect that it must have boosted his motivation to race even faster and more precise this year, as he stated that he wanted to be working on some details to improve the last bits of his performance.

And we also have to take a look at monsieur Francois Place from France, who is the 2021 Idre Fjall Vice-World Champion. In general, Place is one for big and major events, as he owns three World Championship medals already, including a golden one from 2019. Let’s see what he will have in store entering a big season like this one.

Rising stars

And of course, we will also keep an eye open for some rising stars, which in our opinion were not limited to those two, but worth mentioning for sure: David Mobaerg from Sweden, as well as 23-year-old Talina Gantenbein from Switzerland. Mobaerg earned his first three podium spots last season and Gantenbein made a total of two podiums, but snuck into the big finals a total of four times. We are just suggesting…keep an eye open for the young guns!

Qualifications are set for Thursday, Nov 25 at 11:15 LOC (04:15 CET), which you can follow via FIS App or on our website on the data page (link below) and then it will be showtime for the finals on Saturday Nov 27 at 13:00 LOC/ 06:00 CET.

Make sure to tune in!

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