SWITZERLAND– It was just another day, another race and another top 10 finish for Banff’s Zach Belczyk under the lights of Arosa, Switzerland.
After racing to a personal best eighth-place finish in the first world cup event of the season on Tuesday (Dec. 15), Belczyk was able to keep the momentum going into the second world cup event on Wednesday (Dec. 16), placing ninth.
The 24-year-old Banff-native easily advanced to the quarter-finals. In the third heat of the quarters, Belczyk got off to a great start out of the gate and led the pack of four skiers through the first half of the 470-metre course – riddled with big air and hard turns.
Belczyk ran out of gas near the end of the course and Sweden’s David Mobaerg and Russia’s Vladimir Shmyrov were able to catch the young Canadian and deny his spot in the semifinals, as only the top two skiers in each heat advance.
"My starts were really good on that course which is so important. There is this single and then double step down feature that threw me off. It is such a steep grade – there is very little room for error and I just overshot it a little bit and lost all my speed into the finish," said Belczyk.
After a pair of top 10 finishes to kick off the season, Belczyk finds himself alongside elite company in the cup standings sitting in eighth place and tied for points with fellow Canadian and last year’s crystal globe winner Kevin Drury. The two skiers are the top performers on the Canadian men’s ski cross team at the moment.
"It was a cool couple of days of racing. My goal is always to get to the big final, and getting two top 10 finishes is a huge step in that direction. It's nice to be in the top 10 in any World Cup no matter what."
"It's reassuring to have this performance early in the season. I know I can compete with the top guys. There are so many variables in ski cross, and you have to know anything can happen."
For Canmore’s Kris Mahler, it’s been a disappointing start to the season, especially when looking back at last year where he claimed a sixth-place and first-place finish in the first two events of the season.
In the first event of the season on Dec. 15, Mahler failed to advance past the first round, skiing in a stacked heat featuring France’s Jonathan Midol, Francois Place and Sweden’s Viktor Andersson.
In the second event on Dec. 16, Mahler advanced to the second round. On of the first large air on the course Mahler was clipped on the back by the skis of Russia’s Kirill Sysoev, causing the Mahler to lose balance and wipe out. He would go on to finish 25th.
The silver lining for Mahler is that the next world cup event will take place in Val Thorens, France where he started so well last season.
The world cup event in Val Thorens will see the skiers race on back-to-back days on Dec. 19 and 20, before pausing for a Christmas break.
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