It was a banner year for the Canada Ski Cross Team who found the podium at every World Cup ski cross race throughout the season. From veteran athletes to rookies, there were shining moments for the team across the board. The success of the entire team is best highlighted through capturing the top honour in the FIS Freestyle category: The Nations Cup. The Nations Cup is a culmination of the success of the entire team, once again proving Canada is a force to be reckoned with on the World Cup circuit and has a deep pool of talent to ensure its continued success.
The team walks away from the 2015-16 season with a total of 18 World Cup podiums, including two on home soil, and four X Games medals. Three of the team’s athletes close out the World Cup series sitting in the top three spots in the FIS World Cup ski cross rankings, a feat matched by no other nation this year.
From October through March, the athletes raced in a total of 12 World Cup events at nine locations this season, including one on home soil in Nakiska, Alta., and the Olympic test event in Bokwang, Korea that hosted a track with massive features and big air. With the 2018 PeyongChang games under two years away, this was an important milestone for the athletes and a good opportunity to acclimatize to the venue, conditions and culture.
The success of a team is truly a sum of all its parts, but this year’s Canada Ski Cross Team’s success was headlined by four athletes: Marielle Thompson, Brady Leman, Chris Del Bosco and Kelsey Serwa. Between these four athletes, they won a total of six gold medals, seven silver medals and five bronze medals.
WORLD CUP CANADA SKI CROSS TEAM PODIUMS
Marielle Thompson: Thompson leads the team with six podium finishes, including four first-place finishes. She also secured a silver medal in the coveted X Games event and ended her season ranked second overall in the FIS World Cup standings.
Chris Del Bosco: Del Bosco finished the World Cup season landing on the podium five times with two victories and returned to the X Games podium with a bronze medal finish. Del Bosco ends the season sitting in the second-place position in the FIS World Cup ski cross rankings.
Brady Leman: Leman hit the World Cup podium five times this season and captured gold at the X Games, a career-goal for him and finished the season ranked third overall.
Kelsey Serwa: Helping to clinch the Nation’s Cup title, Kelsey Serwa landed two World Cup podium finishes this season and was named this year’s X Games ski cross champion.
“After a long season I was really happy to finish on a strong note with second-place at the last World Cup of the season,” said Marielle Thompson. “I’m really pleased to be second overall and to share the overall podium with Chris [Del Bosco] and Brady [Leman] who have both been so dominant all season. It was really fun to be able to go to Korea for the Olympic test event and ski such an exciting course. My goal this season was to be back where I was before my injury and I definitely did that so I’m happy. Winning the Nations Cup was the cherry on top of a great season and I’m glad to see our team back to being the best in the world!! I’m looking forward to a bit of time off after nationals to relax before getting back to skiing in the end of April.”
In the final few races of the season, Louis-Pierre Hélie and rookie Kevin Drury both achieved career-best finishes, landing in the big finals for the first time. Hélie had three top-ten finishes this season, beefing up the already-strong men’s side of the team. Drury, who pushed out of a World Cup start gate for the first time this season, showed incredible improvement and promise as a ski cross athlete as he steadily improved his finishes. Drury hit the top-ten four times, landed in the small final once and made it to the big final in the Olympic test event in Korea.
Following the World Cup circuit, the Canada Ski Cross team has been nabbing other National Championship wins. Hélie continued his hot streak and won the Austrian National Championships and Matt Brady took home first-place at the German National Championships.
The 2016 Sport Chek Canadian Championships saw Canadian domination in the big final. Thompson took home first-place on the ladies side, with Serwa in second, Tanya Primak (USA) in third and Tiana Gairns in fourth-place. On the men’s side, it was a Canadian sweep in the finals with Del Bosco taking first, Tristan Tafel claiming second, Kris Mahler in third and Zach Belczyk in fourth.
NEXT GEN TEAM SUCCESS
The Next Gen team has been mirroring the success of the national team athletes capturing titles and podiums of their own. At the Europa Cup level, Brittany Phelan, Tristan Tafel and Matt Brady all found the podium. Phelan, Zoe Chore, Tiana Gairns, Kris Mahler, Matt Brady, Tristan Tafel, Ned Ireland, Zack Belczyk and Trent McCarthy all achieved podium finishes at NorAm races this season. At the World Junior Championships, Kris Mahler won a bronze medal while Trent McCarthy, Courtney Hoffos and Alexa Velcic all had top 10 performances.
Reece Howden was selected to attend the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway to represent Canada in ski cross. Howden dominated the field of competition and walked away with a gold medal for Canada with Zoe Chore finishing in sixth-place.
COACHING AND SUPPORT STAFF
The Canada Ski Cross Team and its success was lead by Head Coach, Stanley Hayer. This was Hayer’s first season as Head Coach of the Canada Ski Cross Team and he played an instrumental role in leading the team to success on the world stage. Hayer was assisted by Primoz Vrhovnik, Rod Honey and James Perks through out the season. Sead Causevic and James Clarkson lead the next gen athletes on the Europa Cup, NorAm circuit and through a few World Cup starts, helping to develop the next wave of Canadian ski cross talent. Both teams were supported by the professionalism of the IST group including: Craig Hill, Karen MacNeil, Karin Kausky, Alex Fell, Jeff Romkey, Mikaela Wilmot, Mike Conway, Cameron DuPlessis, Cathy Morris, Brittany Jonat, Aaron Speden, Jessie Clarkson, Yaroslav Lucan, Lauren Kucera, Willy Raine and the entire ACA office staff in Calgary and Toronto.