ELIN THORA JENSDOTTIR
There’s nothing like a delayed race to heighten the anticipation and inject some added excitement into a competition. That’s what happened when the Dec. 6 races at the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup at Nakiska were cancelled due to freezing conditions last week.
But the next day, with the sun shining bright on the mountain, the temperatures moderated a bit in Kananaskis Country and the races kicked off at 1:30 p.m.
Not surprisingly, the hill wasn't crowded because most of the skiers and boarders were warming up in the lodge. But those ski-cross fans that stuck it out at the bottom of the track got treated to the DJ’s pumping dance music. That’s one way to warm up.
Georgia Simmerling raced for first in her round of the Eighth Final.
Joining Simmerling in the Quarter Final rounds were Kelsey Serwa and Marielle Thompson. In the Men's Quarter Final rounds, Brady Leman and Mathieu Leduc represented Canada.
Meanwhile, kids – with only their noses and cheeks exposed - showed their support to the Canadian athletes by writing messages on posters. Cowbells were supplied for them to make extra cheering noise.
The propane fire attracted cold toes and noses. Kids kept themselves fuelled for the slopes with some roasted sugar.
Brady Leman finished with a strong first in the Quarter Finals. Surging with the pride of racing on his home hill, Leman put everything he had into his races to get to the medal round. "It's not very often you get to race at home. It's special for me to get to race with my friends and family and I just ski to win," said Leman.
As the sun disappeared behind the mountain, the pressure and skill increased in the remaining qualifying athletes.
The fan zone filled up a bit more with skiers and boarders as the races continued.
Georgia Simmerling shared her thoughts about the race with CBC Sports after her elimination from the Ladies' Finals. Gotta love the face decoration.
The crowd was bigger and louder and more excited in the VIP area as the Ladies Final showed on the big screen.
In a stunning performance, Thompson took first place in the Final. “It’s all about the start on this course. I was in that far gate so I knew I had to have a rocket start. I pulled one off and just led the whole way down," said Thompson.
Serwa, who finished first in the Small Final, congratulated Thompson with a big hug.
It was most certainly Thompson’s day as she finished with great energy in the Ladies Final. Following her in a close second was Fanny Smith from Switzerland, and Ophelie David from France, who took third place.
“It’s just super wild that I can represent Canada in the Olympics," said Thompson.
Then it was time for the Men's Final.
The crowd could only watch the big screen in frozen anticipation as Leman, Armin Niederer of Switzerland and Jona Devouassoux and Jean Frederic Chapuis of France raced for first in the Men's Finals.
At the bottom of the track, Leman stretched to get third place. As soon as he crossed the line, it was easy to see he was not entirely happy with his performance.
"I'm really happy to get the podium because it is a really important result for me, but I wanted to win. I felt like I could have won so that was a bit disappointing initially," he said.
It was an exciting day but it was time to go. My toes were painfully cramped from the cold and it was time to race on over to Radium Hot Springs for another SnowSeekers story before the sun was to completely set over the mountains.
Big congratulations to Marielle Thompson and Brady Leman for making the podium. Good luck to the Canadian ski cross team as they prepare for the next World Cup circuit in Val Thorens, France, on Dec. 14 and 15.
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