BLUE MOUNTAIN, Ont. — Reigning Olympic champion Brady Leman of Calgary won gold on Saturday at a skicross World Cup event while Canada’s Marielle Thompson took silver on the women’s side.
Top-ranked French skier Bastien Midol was second in the men’s race followed by Johannes Rohrweck of Austria.
"Any time you make a final battle you know it’s going to be a tough battle," Leman said. "I was happy just to get to the final today. I was feeling confident and I knew I could win if I had a good run. I just tried to enjoy it and it worked out."
The medal was Leman’s 23rd podium finish of his career and third straight gold at the Blue Mountain event following wins in 2012 and 2017.
"I’ve been really successful so I have a lot of confidence on this course," said Leman. "Today was a bit of a mental battle for me. But as soon as I got racing, that’s what mattered — racing the heats and enjoying the atmosphere, and having fun."
Leman said he could hear the fans cheering every run.
"It’s amazing, an amazing feeling to race in Canada, and it’s really motivating to be the reason that everyone is cheering," said the 32-year old. "It’s a big motivator for me, always go out, try to do my best and enjoy the atmosphere."
Switzerland’s Fanny Smith won her 17th skicross World Cup title, edging Thompson for the gold medal in the women’s event.
Thompson, of Whistler, B.C., won gold in skicross at the Sochi 2014 Olympics. She placed 17th in Pyeongchang last February, four months after rupturing her ACL and MCL during a training run.
Thompson has recovered well with a strong 2019 season.
"I think it was definitely mostly physical prep and the team behind me," she said. "It was mostly the people pushing me to get there, I definitely had to do the work."
The 26-year old is ranked second in the world behind Smith.
Saturday’s medal was the third of Thompson’s season.
"I love racing at home in Canada," Thompson said. "It’s so great to see so many people excited about ski racing here, such supportive fans all day. It really brings up the energy level and makes us excited to ski."
Sandra Naeslund of Sweden won bronze while reigning Olympic silver medallist Brittany Phelan of Mont Tremblant, Que., finished last in the four-woman big final.
Phelan got tripped up and lost a handle on her skis in the last half of the big final.
Kelsey Serwa, the Olympic gold medallist from last year’s Pyeongchang Games, was eighth. The 29-year-old Serwa also won silver at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
Also on the men’s side, Kevin Drury of Toronto won the small final to finish fifth and Reece Howden of Cultus Lake, B.C. was seventh.
Leman and Drury were in the same semi-final heat and skied in the lead side-by-side for nearly the entire run before Drury was passed by another competitor.
"Training with Kevin was awesome, he was skiing the more aggressive lines, and I was skiing the more wide and fast, so between the two of us we really had everything covered," Leman said. "It’s amazing when your teammates are among the best in the world, it really raises the level for our whole group."
Canada’s skicross team heads to Utah for the World Championships next Friday and Saturday.