Howden’s 1st ski cross win of season highlights Canada’s 3-medal haul in Austria
Reece Howden, the 2020-21 World Cup’s top-ranked racer in men’s ski cross, stood atop the medal podium for the first time this season on Sunday in Reiteralm, Austria, a year to the day of his victory in Russia.
The man known as “Big Rig” dominated Sunday’s big final with a strong start to finish win in the first World Cup race since the Beijing Olympics last month, where Howden placed ninth overall in his Winter Games debut.
“It feels amazing,” Howden told Alpine Canada. “The way Canada has been going with Cam [Alexander] and Jack [Crawford] getting those great results on the alpine circuit, I was happy to bring it on the men’s ski cross side.”
Japanese Sugai Ryo of Japan and Alex Fiva of Switzerland rounded out the podium while Fiva’s teammate, Olympic champion Ryan Regez, was fourth.
In the women’s competition, Marielle Thompson and Canadian teammate Britt Phelan took silver and bronze.
I figured something out today and I want to remember this and … build the confidence back up.— Canadian ski cross racer Reece Howden
Sunday marked Howden’s first World Cup victory of the season for Howden, the 23-year-old freestyle skier from Cultus Lake, B.C., who won four gold and two silver last campaign to take home the Crystal Globe as overall season winner.
He was also the top Canadian man in ski cross at the 2021 world championships, winning the small final to finish fifth overall.
“It’s been a long pull for me this year and a tough road,” Howden said, “but I figured something out today and I want to remember this and keep on trucking and build the confidence back up.”
On Sunday, Howden stood on the podium for the first time since earning bronze three months ago in Innichen, Italy.
Tore ACL last March
Thompson, 29, was coming off an Olympic silver in Beijing, eight years after winning the ski cross event in Sochi, Russia.
“Today I skied really well, and in the finals I was in a dangerous position with Sandra [Naeslund of Sweden] right behind me,” said Thompson after earning her 51st World Cup medal and fifth of the season. “I’m happy to be skiing fast and feeling good on my skis in this comeback season.”
WATCH | Thompson races to Olympic ski cross silver:
She had only 10 months to recover for this year’s Games after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee last March in Sunny Valley, Russia.
The Whistler, B.C., native boasts 25 World Cup wins and three Crystal Globes.
Phelan, who missed qualifying for the Olympic final by a photo finish, returned to the circuit earlier this season following a lengthy recovery after suffering a season-ending knee injury in February 2020.
“It was awesome,” said Phelan of Sunday’s performance. “I didn’t have the quickest start but made some really good passes throughout the day to end up in the big finals with a couple of my teammates which was fantastic. A good day on a fun track.”
In December, the 30-year-old from Mont-Tremblant, Que., captured a silver medal in the big final at Val Thorens, France, two weeks after taking the small final at the season-opening event in Secret Garden, China.
Naeslund, this year’s Olympic champion, won Sunday and has victories in all nine World Cup races this season.
Courtney Hoffos (Windermere, B.C.) and Tiana Gairns (Prince George, B.C.) rounded out the small finals, finishing seventh and eighth, respectively. In the men’s small final, Kris Mahler of Canmore, Alta., was sixth, two spots ahead of Calgary’s Brady Leman.