After the Olympic Winter Games, at the end of February, the World Cup will continue with a weekend of two races going down in Sunny Valley (RUS) on Feb 26-27. A short break until mid-March will follow, and then the tour will have its penultimate stop at the Crosspark in Reiteralm (AUT) on March 13 and finally, the crystal globe show will go down at the World Cup finals in Veysonnaz (SUI) on March 19th, concluding the season.
A short recap of last season – women
As for the women, it was Swiss ski cross ace Fanny Smith (SUI), who took home the ski cross overall crystal globe for the third (2013, 2019, 2021) time in her career after a truly historic season for her. Not only did the Swiss champ dominate the World Cup podium throughout the season, she also managed to beat the all-time record of World Cup victories among men and women.
For the longest time, it had been France’s Ophelie David holding that record with 26 wins. Smith did not only manage to tie that record, she broke it and kept going until 29, writing ski cross history.
As if it wasn’t enough, Smith also became the 2021 Vice-World Champion at the World Champs in Idre Fjall (SWE). Although she made two big mistakes during the big final, the exceptional athlete fought her way back and managed to cross the finish line second.
It was no other than Sandra Naeslund (SWE) to make a super strong appearance at the World Champs. She missed out on the first half of the 2020/21 World Cup season due to a knee injury, but just in time, she managed to get back into competition mode and it was the World Champs on her home soil, which was the first race for her to come back after the break. And what a comeback that was! Of course, Naeslund did fight until the very final heat and with that spirit, she managed to win her second World Championships gold medal.
Although Naeslund could not make up for the missing World Cup points from the first half of the season, she managed to jump onto the podium on the four following World Cup stops, making it to top position twice and showing that she was back in business.
Another great comeback from injury last season was Alizee Baron (FRA), who managed to perform strongly from the very first competitions on and she did gain enough confidence to climb back on top of the podium at one of three World Cup races in Idre Fjall (SWE). This achievement was followed by two other podium spots throughout the season, securing the French athlete the second place at the World Cup ranking in the end. Furthermore, Baron claimed the bronze medal at the World Championships for the second consecutive time. A great comeback indeed!
Rounding out the top three ranking on the overall standings was Sochi 2014 Olympic Champion and Solitude 2019 World Champion Marielle Thompson (CAN). Although she was not quite on top of her game last season due to some ongoing issues with her knee, which ultimately forced her to miss out on the World Cup finals in Veysonnaz (SUI), the Canadian did fight her way into the top three ranking by taking three third and two second places in total.
Throughout the summer, Thompson focused a lot on rehab and getting the knee back into shape. It is not clear yet, whether Thompson will be competing from the first competition on, but one thing is for sure, she will try everything to be in top shape as soon as possible for this Olympic season.
A short season recap 2020/21 – men
On the men’s side, it was Canadian young gun Reece Howden, who at the end of the season walked home with the overall SX crystal globe AND the male rookie award, which he was able to claim, since it was Howden’s first full World Cup season ever. It was the first time in history that an athlete had won both titles in the same season. The Canadian delivered outstanding performances throughout the season, grabbing six podiums, of which four were wins. For sure, we can expect to see more excellent racing performances by the 23-year-old in the very near future.
At the World Champs, Swiss veteran Alex Fiva took home the gold medal, ending up as oldest athlete in ski cross to ever claim gold at World Championships. No insult intended here, just reflecting on what they say…the older, the better?!
2019 World Champ Francois Place (FRA), who is known for his excellent performances at World Champs, came in second and it was 24-year-old Swede Erik Mobaerg who won bronze.
Jonas Lenherr (SUI) was one to watch throughout the season, as his racing was on another level, resulting for him to land on the podium three times, which ultimately led him to the second rank in the final World Cup overall standings.
Third on the overall World Cup ranking was Bastien Midol from France, who also already has an overall SX crystal globe from 2018/19 on his shelf and a World Champs silver medal from 2013. So, definitely no stranger to great achievements as well.
The overall Nations Cup went to Switzerland as a result of really strong performances of the entire team during the entire season.
What else was new?
The mixed-team event premiere in Bakuriani (GEO) is also worth mentioning. For the first time ever, a male and female athlete of a nation teamed up in order to compete against other nation’s teams. With the men starting first, the women then had to wait until their team mates were in the finish and then started with the respective relay time of their male team mates. The first woman crossing the finish line determined the winning team.
An exciting racing format, which will make it to the calendar this season in Arosa (SUI) under the flood lights as a night event. The ultimate goal is it, to add this event format to the World Championships and Olympic programme.