Photo courtesy of Canadian Olympic Committee
From left, Brady Leman, Dave Duncan and Chris Del Bosco endured a frustrating day in the Olympic men's ski cross event held Thursday.
The Canadian men’s ski cross team couldn’t have had a much more frustrating day in Sochi.
It certainly wasn’t the squad’s most disappointing effort of the season — that came at a World Cup stop in Val Thorens, France, this winter when no Canadians advanced to race heats for the first time ever.
But on Thursday at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, the results were agonizing.
The Canadians looked fast in the seeding runs, all three of them posting top-six times among the field of 32 skiers to grab good positioning for the race heats.
But Dave Duncan and Chris Del Bosco, who had combined to win three of the past five World Cup events, were eliminated in the opening round after running into trouble in their heats. Brady Leman had a better day, making it all the way through to the final, but got squeezed out by a trio of French skiers and finished in the most frustrating position of all — fourth.
“We didn’t have a lot of luck today,” Canadian head coach Eric Archer told Reuters
after the race. “We got into a lot of tangles… any time you get into a situation like that, you've got to scramble and that’s the nature of the sport.”
In 2010, it was Del Bosco who fell close to the finish line in the men’s final and placed fourth. On Thursday, it was Leman’s turn. The Calgary native didn’t get out to a great start, managed to sneak up into third place for a short while before dropping back to fourth, then falling as he tried to catch back up.
Definitely not the way the Canadians had envisioned the day going. Although, not many could have envisioned the way the day played out.
In a testament to the unpredictable nature of ski cross, the top five skiers on the World Cup points list were eliminated before the semifinals had even began. There were some shocking moments, like current World Cup leader Victor Oehling Norberg of Sweden’s dramatic exit. Leading his quarter-final coming over the final jump, he fell on the landing and was eliminated in a photo finish that produced one of the great images of these Olympics.
Meanwhile, world champion Jean-Frederic Chapuis and teammates Arnaud Boloventa and Jonathan Midol provided France’s first-ever podium sweep at a Winter Olympics. It’s fairly common for two athletes from the same nation to share the podium in World Cup races, but a full sweep of the medals is very rare.
In fact, there were none on the World Cup circuit between the Olympic debut of ski cross at the Vancouver Games and Thursday’s sweep in Sochi. Canada was the last country to take gold, silver and bronze in a race for both men and women — Kelsey Serwa, Ashleigh McIvor and Danielle Sundquist completed the feat in Grindelwald, Switzerland, just a few weeks before the 2010 Olympics, while Del Bosco, Stan Hayer and Davey Barr made it an all-Canadian men’s podium during the Olympic test event at Cypress Mountain in 2009.
Heading into Friday’s women’s race, the Canadian crew will be hoping things play out a little more as expected, because they’ll once again have three solid medal contenders in the field.
Whistler's Marielle Thompson is the only Canadian to capture an individual Crystal Globe in ski cross as the overall World Cup champ, which she did at age 19 in 2012. She’s been dominating the season and has yet to finish outside the top five in any race. Read more about Thompson in my story in today’s Pique here.
Meanwhile, Kelowna’s Kelsey Serwa is a former world champion and won the test event in Sochi last season. Georgia Simmerling brings Olympic experience, having raced super-G in 2010 as a member of Canada’s alpine ski team, and has caught on quickly in ski cross since switching disciplines.
Women’s seeding runs start at 11:45 p.m. PST on Thursday, while race heats begin at 1:30 a.m. on Friday.