The Ski Cross competition season has drawn to a close and what an interesting season it has been, to say the least. Unusual, fickle, or unexpected would be the best terms to describe a season full of sudden changes and challenges.
The global pandemic has left its mark nearly everywhere, including this season of ski cross races. Nevertheless, organizers managed to find a solution to hold races and athletes made their way to the starting gate. The beginning of the season was marked by the cancelation of the first competition in Montafon, so the tradition of the opening race belonged to the night in Arosa, Switzerland.
Last minute travel plan snags and sudden changes in the location of the competition courses became the norm and required a lot of organization to keep events running smoothly. In addition to the established preparations and focus on the competition itself, these changes added stress and challenge to all. However, the most calm and willing competitors successfully overcame obstacles to achieved good results on the track.
NEW VENUES AND RACES
Two new venues made their debut as World Cup hosts this season: Austria's Reiteralm and 2023 FIS Freestyle Ski, Snowboard and Freeski World Championships host Bakuriani, Georgia.
FIS decided to add another race to the existing back-to-back competitions at the Swedish venue, "Idre Fjäll TRE". The competition week opened with a 600m sprint event on the final leg of the course, followed by back-to-back races on the next days.
The organization committee of Idre Fjäll, was able to schedule the Cross World Championships in just three short weeks, putting on a spectacular event where a total of 18 medals were awarded.
INJURIES ARE PART OF SPORT
For many Elan athletes, this season will also be remembered for the unfortunate aspects of the sport that are endured by many racers each season. Ski Cross is a high risk event and injuries can happen during a competition or training, and are considered an occupational hazard that comes with being an elite athlete.
All three skiers who were on the podium last season have suffered injuries this season, some serious and some less serious. Reigning world champion Kevin Drury ended his season in December after crashing in qualifications in Val Thornes. Last year's silver medalist, Ryan Regez, broke his hand during a training run. Brady Leman crashed at the World Cup in Georgia. Fortunately, the Canadian anticipates his rehabilitation will be quick, since he won't need surgery. Zach Belczyk, Courteny Hoffos, Tim Hronek, Abby McEwen, Niklas Bachsleitner, Marc Bischofberger and Henrik Lunde also joined the list of injured athletes.
"Brit, with her incredible will and dedication, started rehabilitation as soon as she left the operating room. She has been doing more and more ski training lately. Her knee is withstanding all pressure,... I have no doubt that she will return even stronger for the Olympic season. I hope that all our competitors will recover quickly and prepare as well as possible for the Olympic season." Blaž Lazar, Elan racing team manager.
Despite the injuries, we are excited about the excellent overall results when the season concluded. Together, Elan athletes have reached the World Cup podium a total of 10 times:
- David Mobärg: 1st, 2nd and 3rd place
- Ryan Regez: 2nd place three times
- Courtney Hoffos: 2nd place
- Kevin Drury: 3rd place
- Jared Schmit: 3rd place
- Niklas Bachsleitner: 3rd place
- Tim Hronek: 3rd place
In addition to these results, Erik Mobärg won a bronze medal at the World Championships in Idre Fjäll. This was his first competition after rehabilitation and return from injury.
Now it's time to review, rest, recover, and prepare for next year, a season where the Winter Olympics are the goal.