Naeslund repeats and Mahler wins on home soil in Nakiska

It was the very last Olympic qualifying ski cross competition that went down on Saturday in Nakiska (CAN) in style. And at this point, we have to point out one more time the unusual warm temperatures for this time of the year in Alberta, Canada. For the second race day, it was again temperatures above 0 degrees, which has never been the case for the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup here.

In any case, it was another day of action-packed ski cross action with unfortunately some crashes, but also really tight racing and passing at times. And, one thing that definitely was visible on Saturday, is that the Canadian team was absolutely on fire after Friday’s disappointing results, to strike back and to fight for those podium spots on home soil.

Naeslund goes for career win number 24 in unusual big final

The women’s big final on Saturday saw Canada’s Marielle Thompson, Fanny Smith from Switzerland, France’s Alizee Baron and, not much to anybody’s surprise, season dominator Sandra Naeslund from Sweden in the start gate. But this big final was far from a usual big final that we are used to witness.

The first odd thing was that on the starter’s command of “Attention”, where the other three athletes went into the starting position of full tension, Alizee Baron did not. And once the gate dropped, the French athlete was the only one not pulling out.

While Baron was left in the start gate, Naeslund again managed to get over the start section as fastest athlete, securing the lead, while Thompson and Smith were a bit behind on the left and right side going over the next jump, where the Canadian was able to get into a tiny bit ahead of Smith. Heading into the next turn, where the Swiss was on the inside line, it seemed, she had too little space to make the next gate, so she was forced to get closer to Thompson, who was slightly in front. Smith then seemed to have lost her line and skied on Thompson’s skis, which unfortunately, caused for both athletes to crash pretty severely.

Naeslund seemed to not have noticed the crash behind her and continued full gas down the course and then going for career victory number 24, bringing her closer to the crystal globe, but also to Fanny Smith’s record of most ski cross World Cup victories among men and women.

Theoretically, it is possible for Naeslund to break that record this season, if she would continue to win every single World Cup race this season, with 6 races left.

“I don’t know if this record is something that I keep in mind, I just take one race at a time. Today, I didn’t even know that the other girls crashed. I thought I had them on my tails all the time, but I just hope they are both ok,” Naeslund commented. And when being asked for her goals going into the next races on her home soil, Naeslund continued: “Of course, I will be looking for more victories, so we’ll see.”

Smith and Thompson turned out to be a bit bruised up, but thankfully seemed to have not suffered from mayor injuries.

Kristofor Mahler back on top of the podium

For the men’s big final of the day, we saw the Canadian double pack Brady Leman and Kristofor Mahler in the start gate, joined by Florian Wilmsmann from Germany and Switzerland’s Ryan Regez.

Kris Mahler on the very left outside line in the yellow bib, shot out of the start gate super fast and made it over the first features in an incredible manner, being able to then take the lead of the heat. Wilmsmann then positioned himself immediately after him into second, followed by Regez in third and Leman sitting in fourth.

Athough it was incredibly tight racing, with the guys using each others draft, Mahler was absolutely on fire and was going super fast on his skis, not giving Wilmsmann the chance to even think about passing.

In the meantime, Leman had tried to make some passing moves on Regez in the back of the heat, but the tall Swiss athlete knew hot to defend his spot.

And that way, Kris Mahler raced to his second ever career victory and on home soil too; what else could one ask for?!

We asked him how he felt about this very special win and he commented: “It feels amazing. I mean, this season has been a tough one for me, so I just have been trying to keep to my process and keep going forward. I hadn’t gotten a lot of results, but today it worked out and it really feels good to have made it happen on home soil!”

When being asked whether this victory was a good sign getting closer to the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, Mahler answered: “Yeah, our team has been super tight with spots and I haven’t really been following the standings, so each race I am just going to try to put my head down and go as fast as I can; that’s what I did today and it worked out, so I am really stoked!”

World Cup standings

On the women’s side, it is season dominator Sandra Naeslund still wearing the leader bib after today’s win, of course. And the Swede was able to again enlarge her margin on Fanny Smith to a total of 750 points, 184 points ahead of Smith. In third rank, it’s now Marielle Thompson with 389 points.

On the men’s side, although Bastien Midol was out of the competition pretty early on Saturday, runner-up and teammate Terence Tchiknavorian was not able to win back the leader bib. Midol holds a total of 403 points, Tchiknavorian 373 and in third rank, it’s still Ryan Regez with 277 points.

We are now packing up our bags and travelling back to Europe, Scandinavia to be precise, where a double pack of races awaits us in Idre Fjäll on January 22 and 23, which will be the last two competitions, before the mayor event of the season: The Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.

FIS Press Release

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