After a disappointing start at Nakiska where he was edged out of contention in the semi-finals, Brady Leman tightened up his game at Telluride on Wednesday to place second overall — the first medal this season for the ski cross national team.
Filip Flisar of Slovenia took the checkered flag, while Armin Neiderer of Switzerland and Jean Frederic Chapuis of France were third and fourth in the final heat.
Whistler's David Duncan got bumped out of contention in the quarter-finals, but finished ninth on the day. Rookie Ian Deans posted his second solid result in 14th and Mathieu Leduc was 17th.
Tritstan Tafel and Louis-Pierre Helie did not qualify for the race in the top 32, finishing just outside in 35th and 36th.
"I felt like I was skiing well and skiing fast today," said Leman. "It's where I want to be in every race — in the final and fighting for gold... It was pretty much a three-way photo finish for first, second and third. It was tight racing the whole way down."
Head coach Eric Archer said it's great to see the team getting back to normal after losing a teammate, Nik Zoricic, at the end of last season in a crash. "We were very focused; skiing well, having fun," he said. "It was a great course. Brady was on it all day. It was a great fight to get the photo for second."
Duncan was actually leading the quarter-final heat when he crashed, taking out Deans in the pile-up. Although he made it to the bottom in second, Duncan was disqualified for missing a gate. He later proved by video that he did in fact make the gate, although the ruling had already cost him the chance to contend for a medal. "After the race the video was reviewed and (we) got a rule clarification," said Duncan. "Thank you for the apology."
There was a meeting on Thursday to determine whether the final placing or points would stand or would be amended to reflect the video review. In this season, which is an Olympic qualifier and world championship year, every point could be important.
"The way he was skiing, there was a very good chance he would have gone through to the final," said Archer.
As for Deans, he was sent back to B.C. to get an MRI to determine the extent of his knee injury from the crash.
On the women's side, world champion Kelsey Serwa found her groove again and qualified for the finals, where she finished fourth behind Fanny Smith of Switzerland, Ophelie David of France and Anna Holmlund of Sweden.
"I'm not focused on results right now," said Serwa. "I'm just focused on building confidence. Today was a big step for me — just getting into the finals. I was stoked. I tried to make a pass on the last turn... at the bottom and just kind of got pinched out a bit."
Whistler's Marielle Thompson shook off her disappointing race in Nakiska, where she failed to qualify for the brackets, with a stronger performance. She made the semi-finals, lost and then finished last in the small final after crossing skis with another racer. She was not injured, but placed eighth on the day.
Georgia Simmerling and Danielle Sundquist did not qualify in the top 16 and placed 18th and 20th respectively.
The next World Cup race was on Wednesday, Dec. 19 in Val Thorens, France.