While every World Cup series comes with high expectations, this season has added importance for Australian Institute of Sport skiers Scott Kneller, Anton Grimus, Katya Crema, Jenny Owens and Sami Kennedy-Sim given it leads into the Sochi Olympic Winter Games in February.
Not only are World Cup results integral to the Sochi qualification process, which cuts off on January 20, AIS ski cross program head coach Matt Lyons knows that strong results on the tour may also carry through into the sport’s pinnacle event.
Despite the importance of the Olympic Winter Games, Lyons has not changed that much of his squad’s off-season preparation for this season compared with previous years.
“We determined at the outset that we would go back to basics,” Lyons said this week.
“We wanted to focus on the key elements of the sport, which are good skiing, good starts and good physical preparation. Those are the main three elements.
“However, it is worth acknowledging the fact that we are going into an Olympic year and it’s a big year and the challenges are there before us.
“We need to embrace those challenges and basically recognise that this is what we are here for.”
Lyons said that he is confident the squad has achieved almost all of his expectations throughout the off season training.
“We are all feeling like it is time to get going,” he said.
“We have done almost everything I wanted to get done during the preceding six to eight months.
“We tweaked a couple of things and got a lot of skiing in. Everybody is fit and healthy, which is a good start.”
However, Lyons added that he will have to wait until after the first event to gauge the progress of each of his protégés.
“Everybody does all the hard work and everybody does all the training but you never know until you get in that World Cup environment,” he said.
“We’ve had a couple of time trials but it is really difficult to recreate the pressure and intensity required at a World Cup, particularly when you also overlay the qualification pressures.
“We’ve still got seven qualification events before Sochi. We’re definitely far from home and hosed. Everybody still has to perform.
“Although it should be said that we’re not really focused on the Olympics part of our season just yet. It’s a day at a time.”
Officially the freestyle World Cup season started in August with slopestyle and halfpipe events in Cardrona, NZ, but this weekend marks the first stage of the Northern Hemisphere part of the calendar.