Chris Del Bosco entered this week’s World Cup skicross competitions in France knowing that a podium appearance would probably lock up a spot on the Canadian team for the Winter Olympics.
He won gold Thursday in a weather-hampered event at Val Thorens, but he likely needs to do more to book his ticket to Sochi.
The race was halted due to high winds and Del Bosco was given the victory based on his qualification results and win in his first heat. However, he’ll need to return to the podium Friday to really strengthen his chances for inclusion on the Sochi roster.
“I definitely felt like I could have kept going, it was kind of frustrating because you want to win by winning the final but it was out of my control,” Del Bosco said in a release. “There’s not really any more I could have done.
“It was getting down to crunch time and I knew what I needed to do. I needed to podium. Sochi qualification is kind of a grey area. I don’t really know how that works – I’m going to just regroup here and get ready to give ‘er again tomorrow.”
The second of back-to-back World Cup events will be held Friday at the same venue. The Olympic qualification window for skicross closes Sunday, so it will be the last chance for Canadians to qualify for nomination.
The qualification process is very complicated and there are several freestyle events on tap this week. The selection committee will analyze all the results and data on Sunday and formally announce their decision the next morning.
There are 26 spots available in the five disciplines that fall under the freestyle skiing umbrella –skicross, slopestyle, aerials, moguls and halfpipe – and there can be no more than 14 selections from either gender.
The committee will look at results from previous years but performances this season have the biggest impact. For Del Bosco, all he can do is try again Friday and hope for the best.
The 2011 world champion and X Games gold medallist has struggled of late and now has loads of pressure on him for the stretch drive. The 31-year-old Montreal resident finished second in the test event in Sochi last season but his best result prior to this week was a 15th-place finish in Innichen-San Candido, Italy.
His victory Thursday didn’t really offer much sway because he only raced one heat.
“Chris is probably one of the most interesting and difficult situations,” said Canadian Freestyle Ski Association CEO Peter Judge from Park City, Utah. “But certainly he’s helping his cause today and hopefully he’ll get one more good go at it tomorrow and be able to remove all doubt.”
Sanna Luedi of Switzerland took gold in the women’s competition Thursday. Marielle Thompson of Whistler, B.C., was the top Canadian in fourth to retain her hold on the red bib as overall leader.
The depth of the national skicross team and the Canadian freestyle team as a whole leaves athletes who are on the bubble in a tough spot. Some very talented competitors aren’t going to make the cut because Canada is stacked in several events.
Del Bosco competed at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, where skicross made its Olympic debut. He made the final heat of four skiers but crashed just before the finish while making a late push to move into a better position.
A spokesman for FIS, the sport’s governing body, said in an email that Del Bosco’s victory Thursday would be treated just like any other result on the World Cup circuit, regardless of whether the race was cut short due to weather.
That gives Del Bosco 100 points and moves him to 11th place in the World Cup standings.
Dave Duncan of London, Ont., was seventh. He slipped to second in the men’s overall standings, falling behind Andreas Matt of Austria.
Tristan Tafel of Canmore, Alta., was 15th on Thursday and Brady Leman of Calgary was 18th.
Georgia Simmerling of West Vancouver, B.C., was sixth in the women’s event. Kelsey Serwa, the 2011 world champion from Kelowna, B.C., was seventh in the first qualification round but didn’t start her heat.
Thompson is the only Canadian who has met the qualification criteria for nomination to the Sochi team. Duncan, Leman and Serwa are considered virtual locks for inclusion.