Crashes keep Canada off podium in final ski cross event before Olympics
Sweden's Sandra Naeslund, right, and Canada's Kelsey Serwa ski during the women's semifinal at the World Cup ski cross event at Nakiska Ski resort in Kananaskis, Alta., Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Laurence Heinen, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, January 20, 2018 6:02PM EST
KANANASKIS, Alta. -- A series of crashes left Canada off the podium in the last ski cross World Cup before the Pyeongchang Games, and one ended one athlete's Olympic dreams completely.
After winning her quarterfinal heat, Vancouver's Georgia Simmerling crashed in her semifinal just before the last jump leading up to the finish line, breaking her lower-left leg and taking her out of contention for the Games.
Simmerling, who was ranked fourth in World Cup standings heading into Saturday's races, was loaded onto a toboggan and taken to a hospital in Calgary. Willy Raine, the athletic director for Canada Ski Cross, confirmed she'd broken a bone in her lower leg.
"I'm hoping that she's okay," said teammate Kelsey Serwa, who fell in the women's final to finish in fourth place. "We're sending her our best obviously."
Toronto's Kevin Drury collided with Swiss skier Marc Bischofberger in the men's final and finished off the podium, and Calgary's Brady Leman, who had Friday's fastest qualification run, crashed in Saturday's first heat.
"It felt like the guy behind me just kind of landed on my inside ski," said Drury. "There's nothing you can do about it. That's the sport. It just kind of washed me out."
Germany's Paul Eckert raced hard to the finish line to win his first ski cross World Cup title. Austria's Christoph Wahrstoetter finished alone in second, while Bischofberger and Drury got back up on their skis to finish third and fourth respectively.
Drury's fourth-place finish tied his career best.
"It was crazy because I didn't know the guys behind me crashed and no one was behind me, so I was pushing and pushing," Eckert said. "I thought hopefully it's enough for first place and when I crossed the finish line I looked back and no one was there and I was really surprised, but I'm happy. It doesn't matter. First place is first place."
Montreal's Chris Del Bosco placed second in the small final to finish sixth overall.
Leman collided with Canadian teammate Mathieu Leduc of Comox, B.C., ending both skiers' days prematurely.
"I just had a little bit of contact going into the turn at the bottom, which took away a little bit of speed and left an opportunity for Mat to kind of get beside me," said Leman. "It's too bad that he missed a gate and kept on going. That's not a good move for a Canadian to do especially."
Sweden's Sandra Naeslund won the women's final at Nakiska. French skiers Marielle Berger Sabbatel and Alizee Baron took second and third, respectively while Serwa took fourth.
"It was really cool coming down, even though I was in fourth place and missed that podium, to have the home crowd welcome me through the finish line," said the Kelowna, B.C., native.
"I'm skiing really well. I'm charging after it. I'm not letting up anywhere. Sometimes a ski pops off and that's just part of the sport. I'm happy to be healthy and strong going into the Olympics."
Brittany Phelan, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., finished first in the women's small final ahead of Canadian teammate Tiana Gairns, of Prince George, B.C., who qualified to compete in her first World Cup race.
Canada's Olympic ski cross team will be announced Monday.