VAL THORENS, FRANCE — Chris Del Bosco returned to winning ways on Thursday with victory in a ski cross World Cup race in Val Thorens, France, that was halted after the first round of heats due to strong winds.
Del Bosco, who famously finished fourth at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games when he crashed while going for gold, went into the first of two crucial back-to-back races needing a podium to all but punch his ticket to the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games after a challenging start to his 2013-14 campaign. It’s not clear at this point if Thursday’s results will count toward Olympic qualification, but Del Bosco will get another chance today in the second of two back-to-back World Cup races in France.
The 31-year-old resident, who grew up in Eagle-Vail and now lives in Montreal, was second in the qualification round on Wednesday and won his round of 32 with ease Thursday to advance to the quarterfinals before the race was called due to the wind. With final results based on qualification and the first heats, Del Bosco was awarded the race, while Canadian teammate Dave Duncan, of London, Ont. — winner of the past two ski cross World Cups — was seventh.
A second World Cup race — the final Olympic qualifier for Canadian racers — is due to be held on today.
“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,” said Del Bosco, the 2011 world champion and X Games gold medalist. “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 gray area. I don’t really know how that works — I’m going to just regroup here and get ready to give ’er again tomorrow.”
Del Bosco, historically a slow starter, has endured a tough start to his 2013-14 season, with a 15th-place finish in Innichen-San Candido, Italy, his best result prior to Thursday. He was second in the test event in Sochi, Russia, last season, so in theory he just needed a podium to punch his ticket to the 2014 Games.
“This year started kind of rough for me. I knew if I just kept digging it would happen,” Del Bosco said. “I had a good day of qualifying yesterday and followed it up today with some strong skiing.”
Eric Archer, Canada’s head coach, was happy with the way his racers coped with conditions that have changed dramatically during the course of the past few days. The Canadian men and women had strong qualification rounds Wednesday and had started well Thursday before Mother Nature intervened.
“We had started the women’s quarterfinals and got through the first three when the wind picked up on the top flat. It made one of the features dangerous, and they decided to call it at that point,” Archer said.
“We’ve just got to hope for a good weather window tomorrow and hopefully we can get the race off. We are skiing well. The athletes are stepping up, but right now we are battling Mother Nature again. Del (Bosco) has had some pressure on him here — he knows the situation he’s in. He hasn’t had great results this year, but he’s been very focused this week and had two very good qualifying runs. He won his heat by a long ways.”
The Olympic qualification window for ski cross closes Sunday, so Friday’s race represents the last chance for Canadian racers to qualify for nomination to Canada’s team for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games. Marielle Thompson has already met the qualification criteria for nomination, while Duncan, Brady Leman and Kelsey Serwa look to have punched their tickets to Sochi based on results to date.
Thursday was Del Bosco’s first win since March 19, 2012, in Myrkdalen-Voss, Norway. Del Bosco hurt his shoulder in training before the start of the 2012-13 season, leading to a truncated campaign.