Calgary’s Brady Leman was inches away from claiming his second gold medal in three races Saturday but had the satisfaction of regaining the red bib as the overall ski cross World Cup leader following his silver medal in St. Johann, Austria.
The 25-year-old who made his return to competitive racing last month after breaking his leg three times, narrowly lost a dramatic duel with Switzerland’s Alex Fiva Saturday to claim second place in the men’s final.
“He’s got longer arms than I have,” joked Leman after he and Fiva crossed the line shoulder to shoulder in a photo finish. “Second is cool and everything, but you want to win.
“Having the red bib again is sweet – it was cool to have it after the first race. I like this thing so I want to hold on to it.”
Leman’s result comes after he claimed gold and his first career World Cup win in the season-opener in Innichen/San Candido, Italy, on Dec. 17. He was 27th in the second race at the same venue the following day. Leman leads the overall ski cross World Cup standings with 184 points, just two points ahead of Fiva.
“It was rough racing out there,” said Brady, who was second in his first heat Saturday and went on to win his quarter-final and semifinal. “Conditions were tough and I knew it was going to be a battle out there.
“I got kind of lucky in the first (heat). My first start was just tragic but I nailed the next two. It was a great race.”
Canada Ski Cross assistant coach Willy Raine said he saw Leman during breakfast on race morning and thought he looked ready for a big day.
“I said, ‘Dude, I’ve got a good feeling about you today,’ ” explained Raine. “He responded by saying, ‘I’ve got a good feeling about myself.’ He had the confidence.”
Germany’s Daniel Bohnacker was third in Saturday’s men’s final, while Austria’s Patrick Koller finished fourth.
Leman’s result was the highlight of a compelling day of racing for the Canadian team, in which world champion Chris Del Bosco, of Montreal, Que. – still seeking his first podium of the season – made a daring move on the last jump in his semi-final but fell at the line and did not make it through to the final. He also fell in the small final when another racer caught his trailing ski as he moved into the lead. Del Bosco got back on his feet and finished seventh overall. Tristan Tafel, of Canmore, Alta., was 15th after making it through to the quarter-final, while Stan Rey, of Whistler, B.C., was 19th.
“Del (Bosco) had a few incidents and run-ins,” said Raine. “We are happy that he’s in there and back to being the aggressive Chris Del Bosco that we know.
“It’s a great race. It’s a pretty amazing venue . . . there’s a lot of rubbing elbows, a fair bit of contact on the course. The conditions were pretty wild. There was a huge snowstorm while we were racing.”
There was plenty of drama on the women’s side, too, as Whistler’s Marielle Thompson fell in the small final and finished eighth.
“I’m feeling fine. I kind of got hooked up going into the first (section) and ended up on my bum,” said Thompson, who claimed her first career World Cup podium with a third-place finish in the season-opener in Innichen-San Candido on Dec. 17. “I could definitely be happier but I’m glad I made the small final.”
World champion Kelsey Serwa, of Kelowna, B.C., was eliminated in her quarter-final heat in controversial fashion when she got tangled up with another racer and hit the deck. She got back up but didn’t make it through to the semifinals and finished 10th. French veteran Ophelie David won the women’s final Saturday, with Germany’s Anna Woerner second and Alizee Baron, of France, third. Serwa holds on to the red bib as the overall World Cup leader with 226 points, ahead of Sanna Luedi, of Switzerland (189).
Next up for Canada’s ski cross team are men’s and women’s World Cup races in Alpe d’Huez, France, on Jan. 11.