Smith (SUI) and Howden (CAN) winning first ever ski cross in Craigleith

By winning the first out of two races here in Craigleith (CAN), Swiss Fanny Smith moved one step closer to secure the second place in the overall world cup ranking. Canadian’s Reece Howden not only won on home soil, but he can call himself World Cup overall winner of the season 2022/23 already before the season is over. Team Canada was sending it today as four out of eight spots in the big finals were filled with them.

Also, the weather wasn’t that good on Friday morning, because it was raining, the organizer together with all their volunteers did their best to get the course ready to see some spectacular racing on the new course at the new venue here in Canada. The one hour delay was definitely worth it as exactly at the time the race started rain became less and even the sun came out and we got to see a wonderful rainbow over the course.

This was the sign to finally send the athletes down the 870 m long and in the middle section pretty steep course. The athletes were super happy about the course as they haven’t expected the slope conditions to be this good after the heavy rain during night and in the morning.

Second win in a row for Smith

Friday’s big final was a tough one for Smith as she was racing against three Canadian athletes and as we are in Canada at the moment you can imagine for whom the whole mountain was cheering.

Next to Smith (SUI) who had the fastest qualification run and so was allowed to wear the red bib all day long, we saw Hannah Schmidt (CAN) in green, Courtney Hoffos (CAN) in blue and Marielle Thompson (CAN) in yellow.

Out of the gate it was Smith with the fastest start followed by Thompson and Hoffos and Schmidt head-to-head in third position. Hoffos skied the start section so good that she managed to not only break away from Schmidt, but also catch up with Thompson.

Thompson with the slowest qualification time of these four women had to take the gate which no one of the other three athletes wanted. In fact the skiers right gate which means she had to take the farthest line to ski into the first left turn. Hoffos who had the advantage of skiing the inside line was able to overtake her teammate at the first of three giant slalom turns, which made it almost impossible for Thompson to win back the second position in this section.

Smith who was already some meters in front of her prosecutors was racing her own race, as she did all day long until then. So, the only question from intermediate two on was whom of the three Canadians will stand on the podium and where and who will not make it on the podium. As Schmidt was already some meters behind her teammates the battle for second and third position started for Hoffos and Thompson. Thompson with the greater speed overtook Hoffos in the beginning of the roller section, messed up the last rollers lost speed and fell back again in third position again.

Under raging applause, the four athletes crossed the finish line as follows. Smith takes home her second win in a row, Hoffos got second which means her first podium of the season, Thompson got third and Schmidt got fourth.

With this victory Smith enlarged the gap between her and Thompson to 57 points. As we know in ski cross everything can happen and so the ranking for the overall second and third position will only be made after Saturday’s race, where these trophies will be awarded.

Howden captures crystal globe

On men’s side of things, we saw some really tight and spectacular racing at the first of two races.

In Friday’s big final we saw reigning vice world champion Florian Wilmsmann (GER) in red, world cup leader Reece Howden (CAN) in green, Youri Duplessis Kergomard (FRA) in blue and his teammate Terence Tchicknavorian (FRA) in yellow.

The men with the fastest reaction time was Howden, followed by Duplessis Kergomard and Tchiknavorian and Wilmsmann, who won every single heat until then and showed some excellent skiing was unexpectedly in fourth position.

Duplessis Kergomard who made a mistake in the start section fell back, Howden took over the lead and Wilmsmann and Tchiknavorian skied into the first turn skies by skies. Wilmsmann who took the inside line was able to overtake Tchicknavorian in the second of three giant slalom turns. Tchicknavorian who had to pull back to avoid a crash with Wilmsmann in the second turn lost speed and opened the door for his teammate to overtake him as well, which he did.

From this section on the ski cross train was skiing down the course in this exact order until the finish line. The spectators were freaking out as Howden was crossing the finish line first, followed by Wilmsamnn and Duplessis Kergomand. Tchicknavorian who crashed in the middle section got fourth in the end.

For Howden this is “the biggest win of this season” and all he ever wanted. He said that he couldn’t be happier than winning on home soil in front of his family, which also lead to the fact that he has “never been so nervous in a race for a long time”.

He continued that if he wants to take the overall, he had to do something special, which he did. By winning Friday’s race Howden already snaped up the crystal globe for the best male athlete of the season even before the last race went down on Saturday.

World Cup leaders: Sandra Naselund (SWE) and Reece Howden (CAN)

FIS Press Release

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