Among the competitors vying for qualification spots for the first of the back-to-back Val Thorens events on ahead of the first two races this Friday and Saturday are Australians Sami Kennedy-Sim and Anton Grimus.
“We arrived in Val Thorens on Monday from our Austrian training base,” explained Sami Kennedy-Sim. “It will be training for two days, qualifying on Thursday and racing the next two days.”
With a change in the structure of the Ski Cross World Cups, competitors will be facing a busy December with six Cups in two weeks.
“It’s new for us,” said Kennedy-Sim. “Every five days we will be at a new venue. The style of scheduling that’s been created by FIS will be a Cross Alps Tour – like a Tour de France, and it’s getting a lot of attention and traction across Europe.”
“I’m excited to start racing even though it is a crazy block,” she admitted. “We have two days off in 15.”
The Cross Alps Tour will bring some never-before-seen rules and features to the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup over the coming days, with the most notable additions being the “wild card” slots for the World Cup’s top athletes and the public heat selection.
In brief, the wild card spot is an assurance that the top eight men and the top four ladies as ranked will see a spot in the finals even with a poor qualification performance, with one of the intentions here being to ensure the Tour is decided in the races, not in the qualifications.
For the first race’s qualification in Val Thorens the ranking system will be applied based on last season’s final World Cup leaderboard. After the first race in Val Thorens, the wild card spots will be determined by an athlete’s ranking on the Cross Alps Tour leaderboard.
Mental preparation will be key.
“It’s definitely going to be an interesting challenge for Anton and myself to regroup after every event – win, lose or draw,” Kennedy-Sim said.
“I’ve been working hard on my re-focussing skills with AIS Psychologist Tom Hammond and management skills with coach Shawn Fleming. It’s all about managing us holistically.”
For the Cross Alps Tour and only for the Tour the top qualifying athletes - again, eight men and four ladies - will be given the opportunity to choose their three competitors for the first heat of the next day’s race.
The top qualifier will be given first choice, which for the men will mean choosing one competitor from those ranked 9-16, one from those ranked 17-24, and finally one from those ranked 32. After that the next top qualifier will choose, and on down through the top eight men or top four ladies.
After Val Thorens, Ski Cross heads to Arosa in Switzerland on December 12 & 13 then Montafon in Austria, December 16 & 17.