FIS World Cup: Second to last stop in La Molina

The venue of the 2011 FIS Snowboard World Championships hosts the second to last competitions in the disciplines Snowboard Cross, Halfpipe and Parallel Giant Slalom from March 12th through 15th, 2009.

Jiayu Liu.  Copyright: FIS - Oliver KrausAmong the snowboarders who are still fighting for points in order to make it into the best 50 of each discipline’s World Cup standings is one more than just prominent name. After suffering from injuries for quite a while, 2002 and 2006 Parallel Giant Slalom Olympic Champion Philipp Schoch (SUI) will enter a race course for the first time this winter.

At the moment, Adam McLeish (GBR) sits on the bubble for the World Cup finals having collected 131.1 points so far. However, if the Swiss exceptional talent would make it to the K.o.-finals of the top 16, Schoch would have good chances of starting at the season’s conclusion as the 16th of a race scores 150 points.

But nevertheless, the 29-years-old has to face some strong competition as top athletes like Siegfried Grabner, Benjamin Karl (both AUT), his brother Simon Schoch and Roland Fischnaller (ITA) will enter the Parallel Giant Slalom race, too. Especially both Austrians are currently fighting in a duel for the World Cup title. Currently, Grabner (4.700 points) is in front having a lead of 1,300 points over Karl so a second rank in La Molina would be tantamount to the 34-year-old career’s second Crystal Globe.

On the ladies’ side it’s a closer race for the Parallel crown as three snowboarders still have the chance to claim the title within the last two races – with the best initial situation for Austria’s Doris Guenther (5.250) who is followed by Tomoka Takeuchi (JPN, 4.250) and the winner of the last two races Amelie Kober (GER, 4.232).

With the current World Cup ranking in mind, the battle for the ladies’ Halfpipe World Cup title seems to be the most narrow one as Jiayu Liu (CHN, 3.300) is only 20 points behind of Yellow Bib bearer from Japan. But Shiho Nakashima (3.320) won’t – regarding the latest entry list – drop into the newly built 170 metres long and seven metres high superpipe in La Molina. So, the contest on up-coming Saturday could be a corner stone for the reigning World Champion to take home another trophy after the World Cup winter wrapped up.

In the men’s competition, two Swiss guys could catch up with current World Cup leader and 2009 World Champion Ryoh Aono (JPN, 2.600) as the Japanese squad is not coming to Spain. Sergio Berger (1.370) and defending title holder Iouri Podladtchikov (1.340) could take a huge step forward. In addition, Australia’s Ben Mates (1.280) and Nathan Johnstone (1.250) are also lurking to make up ground by getting some more World Cup points.

Besides some bad news concerning his knee injury, Markus Schairer (AUT) who is leading the Snowboard Cross ranking with 4.340 points will take on the world’s best in La Molina in order to secure his young career’s first ever World Cup title already in Spain. There is only one contender left who could challenge the 2009 World Champion for the Crystal Globe. But 2006 Olympic Champion Seth Wescott (USA) who also has never won a Crystal Globe so far would need a very good result to close the gap of 1.060 points in order to have a slight chance to pass Schairer in the race for the season’s crown in the last Snowboard Cross competitions. In addition, the Austrian is also still battling with his team mate Grabner in a cross-discipline race for the Overall World Cup title.

On the ladies’ side, Lindsey Jacobellis from Stratton, Vermont, only needs a podium finish to clinch an early World Cup title which would be the second one for the US-American. The two times World Champion (2005 and 2007) currently leads the standings with 5.100 points. But the match for the second and third rank in the final ranking of the SBX World Cup standings is a closer one as runner-up Maelle Ricker (CAN, 3,650), third placed Mellie Francon (SUI, 3.370) as well as follow-ups Sandra Frei (SUI, 3.310) and Helene Olafsen (NOR, 3.230) are only separated by 420 points.

Thomas Franc in Moskau.  Copyright: FIS - Oliver Kraus
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