World Cup season to wrap up in Italy again

In the last three competitions of a more than six months lasting snowboard season, itís time for action once again in order to fight for victory in the Snowboard Cross, in the Halfpipe and a Parallel Giant Slalom.

Jiayu Liu.  Copyright: FIS - Oliver KrausIn addition, the tension is high in the race for the Crystal Globes as the title winners of the Parallel discipline as well as of the Overall World Cup are not decided yet. In addition, only the 50 best ranked riders of each category are allowed to start at the World Cup finals.

The closest battle for a World Cup title is the one in the ladies’ Parallel discipline. After her third consecutive race triumph in a row, which Amelie Kober claimed in La Molina last Sunday, the German athlete has reduced the gap on current leader Doris Guenther (AUT, 5.470 points). Before the last race of this winter, the 21-year-old sits in second position 5.232) with only 238 points left to catch up. In addition, the 2006 Olympic runner-up in the Parallel Giant Slalom hopes to benefit from the momentum although the Miesbach resident demurely comments: “I will for sure give everything but also try to take it easy. Then, we will see what the outcome will be.”

While Kober is the race boarder of the last weeks, her only rival for the Parallel World Cup title hast to take care of not to lose the lead in the Overall World Cup ranking, too. Since the race in Limone Piemonte (ITA), which took place last December, Doris Guenther also was the bearer of the Orange Jersey. But facing the season’s last weekend, the 30-year-old (6.420 points) has lost a lot of her lead as the 2009 Snowboard Cross World Cup title winner Lindsey Jacobellis (USA, 6.100) is only 320 points behind. However, Austria’s Guenther has one major advantage as she will start in both the Snowboard Cross and the Parallel Giant Slalom while Jacobellis only enters the Snowboard Cross competition.

Also on the men’s side, the Austrian duel for the big Crystal Globe enters its final round. But unlike the ladies where both contenders have at least one more race to compete in, one male rider has already finished his season. After he had won the last Snowboard Cross in La Molina and thus secured his first ever SBX World Cup title, Markus Schairer (AUT) decided to undergo a knee surgery last Sunday. Although he won’t be able to fight for more World Cup points, the 21-year-old reigning World Champion will follow the action at site as he will go to Valmalenco on Thursday in order to get awarded with his SBX Crystal Globe.

His competitor for the Overall World Cup title is his 13 years older team mate Siegfried Grabner who sits in the runner-up position with 4,920 points, only 420 points behind of Schairer (5.240). If the snowboard veteran with residence in Andorra would make it to the semi finals on Sunday, he would take home the title as the fourth rank still earns 500 points.

Indeed, the fifth rank (450) would be enough, too. But Grabner also battles for his career’s second Parallel World Cup Globe currently sitting on top of the table having gained a lead of 720 points over the whole season so far. But Benjamin Karl still has a theoretical chance to keep hold on his title as the reigning Parallel Slalom World Champion has 4,200 points. But all of his hopes would be dashed if Siegfried Grabner would place ninth in the season’s very last race. So, if the Austrian, who rides on his own board brand would win the qualifiers on Sunday (March 22nd), Grabner would secure the title as he would finish as ninth in a worst case scenario and thus earning 290 points.

As the Japanese squad hasn’t registered for the halfpipe competition, Chinese Jiayu Liu can drop into the pipe in a an absolute relaxed way because all of her competitors in Valmalenco cannot pass the reigning World Champion (4.100 points) in the race for the Crystal Globe anymore. In addition, France’s Anne-Sophie Pellissier (1.900) and Sophie Rodriguez (1.770) could “only” jump on the third rank which is currently taken by Soko Yamaoka (JPN, 2,270) as Shiho Nakashima (JPN) has already secured the runner-up position with 3.320 points.

On the men’s side, 2007 Halfpipe World Cup winner Ryoh Aono (JPN, 2.600) has already clinched his second title although he won’t start in Italy. As his fellow countrymen Kazuumi Fujita (1.850) and Kohdai Watanabe (1.650) are not coming to Valmalenco, too and Mathieu Crepel’s (FRA, 1.690) season is already over due to injury, so far fifth placed Aussie Nathan Johnstone (1. 530) can only better up to the second rank in the World Cup ranking.

Soko Yamaoka.  Copyright: FIS - Oliver Kraus
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Thomas Franc in Moskau.  Copyright: FIS - Oliver Kraus
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