Reigning ski cross world champion Chris Del Bosco secured his first podium of the 2011-12 World Cup season Wednesday and Marielle Thompson continued her fine start to the year as each claimed silver medals in Alpe d’Huez, France.
Del Bosco, of Montreal, Que., made a slick passing move at the end of a tight men’s final to move up to second, while his teammate Dave Duncan, of London, Ont., was fourth. It was a similar story on the women’s side as Thompson secured her second career World Cup podium and teammate Kelsey Serwa went out in the final, finishing fourth. Serwa appeared to hurt her knee and is currently being assessed by a medical team.
“It’s nice to get that first (podium) out of the way. I’m happy. It’s awesome,” said Del Bosco, who has been skiing well this season but didn’t have a lot of luck in the first three races of the year, finishing ninth, 26th and seventh. “In the final I was waiting for an opportunity and I managed to get by near the end. I set it up leading into the final jump.”
Canada had eight men in Wednesday’s round of 32. Young guns Tristan Tafel, of Canmore, Alta., and Stan Rey, of Whistler, B.C., were eliminated in the first round – finishing 20th and 28th, respectively – as was veteran Brian Bennett, of Quesnel, B.C., who was 25th. Brady Leman, of Calgary, Alta. – wearing the red bib as the overall ski cross World Cup leader – was eliminated in his quarter-final when he got off to a bad start and ended up third behind Swiss ace Conradign Netzer and Del Bosco to finish ninth overall. Whistler’s Davey Barr was also eliminated in the quarter-finals and placed 16th.
That left Duncan and Del Bosco paired up in one semifinal with Nik Zoricic, of Toronto, Ont., in the other.
“In the semifinal we were pretty even out of the gate, but it worked itself out,” said Del Bosco, who won his semifinal, with Duncan finishing right behind him in second. Zoricic was eliminated in his semifinal and finished seventh.
Duncan, who was hoping to claim his second podium of the season, got squeezed out in traffic in the final and ended up at the back of the pack.
“The final was just tight,” Del Bosco said. “I made a move almost into second and Dunc got pinched out through the panels. That was kind of a bummer.
“I’m feeling really good. I’ve been skiing well but right about this time in the season – this is when it starts coming together. These kinds of tracks are good for me. More jumps and features. There were a lot of places where you could make something happen.”
Filip Flisar, of Slovenia, took the win in the men’s final, with Sweden’s Lars Lewen finishing third. Leman holds on to the red bib as the overall World Cup leader with 213 points, ahead of Switzerland’s Alex Fiva (195). Duncan sits fifth in the standings (160) and Del Bosco sixth (150).
On the women’s side, Thompson and Serwa were drawn in separate semifinals. While Serwa, the reigning world champion, won her heat, Thompson just squeezed past French veteran Ophelie David into second to secure a place in the final.
“It was tight in the semis – a photo finish with Ophelie,” Thompson said.
Thompson, 19, passed Austria’s Andrea Limbacher in the final to finish second behind Switzerland’s Sanna Luedi. With Serwa going out Limbacher finished third.
“Everyone was kind of together going into the first turn and then it spread out after that,” Thompson said. “Limbacher and I were right beside each other going into the second jump and I just got in front of her.”
Thompson, who claimed her first career World Cup podium with a third-place finish in the season-opener in Innichen/San Candido, Italy, on Dec. 17, is now fourth in the overall ski cross World Cup standings with 187 points. Luedi leads with 289, ahead of Serwa (276) and David (200).
“I don’t think you can get used to it but it feels pretty good,” said Thompson, of her podium result. “What’s made the difference is just my confidence in myself. The training has definitely helped a lot – there’s been a big improvement in my skiing.”
Next up for the Canadian ski cross team is the World Cup stop in Les Contamines, France, with qualification set for Jan. 14 and finals to follow on Jan. 15.
“It was a solid result for the whole team,” assistant coach Brent Kehl said. “Del (Bosco) skied well all day – he just played it smart. Marielle has benefitted from being able to train with Kelsey and she’s really stepped it up this year.”
Kehl said the team is waiting for news on Serwa, who was being assessed by a medical team on the hill.