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PyeongChang 2018

Leman’s ski cross gold banishes past disappointment

Brady Leman from Canada made up for just missing the podium at Sochi 2014 with a gold medal in the freestyle skiing men’s ski cross. The on-form man in the final, Marc Bischofberger from Switzerland, took silver at PyeongChang 2018. Sergey Ridzik, the Olympic Athlete from Russia skier, got up after falling to claim bronze.

On a sunny, still day at Phoenix Snow Park on 21 February, Leman finally came out on top after an incident-packed ski cross event. A number of riders didn’t finish in the elimination rounds, and both Ridzik and Kevin Drury from Canada fell in the final, with Drury failing to finish.

Leman also banished memories of his home Games in Vancouver in 2010, when he was injured the day before he was due to race. Leman skied clear ahead after the crash, which happened relatively early in the final. He is known as “the wombat” to team-mates, who think he looks like the lumbering Australian marsupial, but the former Alpine skier was all style, showing off his classy technique on his gold medal run, before grabbing a Canadian flag to wave at the camera. 

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Silver for the man in form

Bischofberger was one of the favourites for gold, with two World Cup wins this season. He got off to a flying start and was clear of the crash, but couldn’t get past Leman.

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Former world junior champion Ridzik, who also had a World Cup win this year, pointed skywards as he finally made the finish line. He had had to clamber up a kicker to restart after his fall.

French athletes took all the medals at Sochi 2014, but no Frenchmen reached the big final, although Sochi 2014 silver medallist Arnaud Bovolenta came second in the small final, finishing sixth overall. The small finalists were hot on each other’s heals through most of the race, with the field finally stretching out as they headed for home. Sochi 2014 gold medallist Jean Frederic Chapuis was eliminated in the quarter-finals.

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Enjoying the Olympic experience

After the final, Leman afterwards reflected on the significance of winning gold after just missing the podium at Sochi 2014.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” he said. “It’s something I have been working so hard for, for 10-plus years now, especially the last four after coming fourth in Sochi. To battle back from that and stay strong and confident in myself is huge. I’m just so proud right now.”

“[Coming fourth was] a tough one to swallow, but I’ve had such a great experience regardless of results at all my Games. This one I really tried to enjoy a little more and be part of the Olympic experience, and I used that on race day.”

Leman stressed that the hard work he put into winning gold hadn’t been a burden. “I get to do what I love every day. If it’s in the summer or winter I’m skiing or training, so that kind of makes it easy.”

A crazy outcome

Bischofberger was delighted with his silver medal. “It’s really unbelievable,” he said. “First Games and the podium – the day couldn’t be better.”

The Swiss athlete had been concerned as to whether he would be able to compete at his best following a crash yesterday. “Today in the morning, during training, I was not sure I could race like I wanted to race because of so much pain,” he said. “Then I felt good, and better and better, and made warm-ups. Now I’m here, silver medallist. It’s crazy.”

Ridzik was pleased with his first Olympic podium finish. “When I fell I thought that finishing the race was one of my most important things to do, so I tried hard,” he said. “I actually aimed for the gold but I’m happy with the bronze because I haven’t been on the podium before.

“The Olympic medal was a long dream for me and thanks to those who supported me I was able to win (bronze) today.”

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