NAKISKA, ALTA. –
Ski cross racer Kevin Drury feels he is in good shape at the right time.
The 33-year-old Torontonian finished second Friday at Nakiska Ski Resort for his first World Cup medal since breaking his leg in a race on Dec. 20, 2020.
The Canadian, who won the overall Men’s Ski Cross World Cup title in 2019-20, finished behind Sweden’s David Mobaerg on the steep Mighty Peace course west of Calgary.
Saturday’s second World Cup in Nakiska is the host Canadian team’s final tune-up before the Beijing Winter Olympics next month. The Canadians won’t travel to two races in Sweden next week due to COVID-19 concerns.
The country is teeming with ski cross talent, so there is internal competition in Nakiska for Olympic spots.
Drury says his leg is completely healed and not slowing him down, but he lost days of training to rehabilitate it in 2021. His first pass on a ski cross course after the injury was a practice run in November in China.
“I was about 35 days behind the rest of my team,” Drury said. “I just tried to get my top speed back, build my confidence on the track, find a balance in my aggressiveness. It’s starting to go in the right direction.”
German Tobias Mueller finished third. Drury was the only Canadian to reach a final Friday.
The top two skiers from each elimination round advance. After easily winning his quarter-final, Drury beat France’s Bastien Midol in a semi-final corner to take second place and advance to the final four.
“I felt it when he came into that last corner to what we call the GS section and I just thought ‘no, I’m not backing up,'” Drury said.
“I didn’t have the best starts today. We kind of knew there weren’t going to be a lot of overtaking opportunities today just because of how quickly it was going from one corner to another and how fast it was, but I somehow found a few ways to get around a few people in key situations.”
Sweden’s Sandra Naeslund won the four-man final ahead of second-placed Fanny Smith of Switzerland and Daniela Maier of Germany in third.
Hannah Schmidt of Ottawa was the top Canadian in fifth, and her teammate Courtney Hoffos of Windermere, BC, was sixth.
Seven Canadians were among 16 women who qualified for Thursday’s qualifier, but their ranks were beset by bad luck on Friday.
Olympic gold medalist Marielle Thompson of Whistler, B.C., clung to the rollers as she exited the starting gate and failed to advance to her quarter-final.
Hoffos and India Sherret of Cranbrook, B.C., collided in the air after a turn which sent Sherret into the backstop in the quarterfinals.
Phelan, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., an Olympic silver medalist in 2018, and Schmidt both slipped in the semifinals.
“It’s ski cross. Anything can happen,” Schmidt said. “You’re lucky sometimes. You’re unlucky other times.
“It was really tough to race here today. The conditions were bumpy.”
Defending World Cup champion Reece Howden of Cultus Lake, BC, 2014 Olympic champion Brady Leman of Calgary and Chris Del Bosco of Montreal did not advance to the men’s quarterfinals.
The Canadians get another chance on the snow at home Saturday as Drury expects the race to be even tougher.
“The hardest part of a doubleheader is that everyone on the court can watch the video from the front run,” he said. “Everyone on Day 2 is a bit more aggressive. Everyone saw where you can pass and where not.
“I’m just going to do my best and try to figure out the start and get ahead. If I get ahead I don’t think anyone will catch me. Otherwise it’ll be the same mentality of just battle. Take my opportunities when they come and grab it.”