CANMORE – Canmore’s Kris Mahler, the only Canadian male ski cross athlete with a world cup gold this season, will have to watch the Olympics from the sidelines.
Based on its selection criteria, Alpine Canada Alpin (ACA) selected four men and four women to represent the country at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games next month. Mahler was barely edged out of a spot, placing fifth among men.
“I was definitely disappointed to see myself as a nomination and not one of the selected guys, but when you do go down that nomination list and the results those guys had, they do match up with how they [ACA] want to select it from an Olympics standpoint,” said Mahler, 26.
“An area I struggle with, the question is: is it the best four guys going this season? It’s definitely a debatable topic; everyone’s super close, but obviously I want to be there.”
The four ski cross men selected are Kevin Drury, Reece Howden, Jared Schmidt, and Brady Leman.
Mahler was named an alternate for the Olympic Games.
Based on individual results in the 2021-22 world cup season, there's a case of whether the four best men are going.
In the sport, there is a qualification round where racers go down the course solo. Based on times, the qualifying athletes are bracketed into heats where four to six skiers go head to head with the top two advancing to the next rounds. In the Big Final, the top four spots are determined in the race.
On top of a gold medal, the Canmore ski cross skier was the only Canadian man to qualify for all races this season, including at the Secret Garden, the venue which will be used in Beijing.
Mahler’s current world ranking of 16th is higher than Howden's (22) and Schmidt's (32), both of who made the Olympic team.
Of seven world cup races that are Olympic format, Schmidt qualified in two this season. The Ontario skier's bronze medal came in sprint, a race format not used at the Games. Last season, Schmidt won bronze on the world cup in the Olympic format full course.
In the intricate ACA selection criteria document, which features multiple methods, tiers, and an 18-month eligibility window for race results, it came down to Mahler and Calgary’s Brady Leman.
Based on top results within the selection criteria's time frame, Leman beat out the Canmore skier on the strength of five top 10s including a silver medal and two fourth places on the world cup. One of Leman's top 10's, an eighth, was in sprint.
Mahler’s top two results were gold and 10th.
“It’s just unfortunate that five guys can’t go. That would be the perfect world,” said Mahler.
“It’s a difficult situation, difficult task to talk about because I’m really stoked for the guys who are going and I’m really happy for all four of those guys, but at the end of the day, it is an individual sport and I want to be there as well. I think I was definitely on the right track, but unfortunately it didn’t line up so we’ll see where the next four years takes us.”
In a written statement, ACA, the national governing body for ski cross said the athletes heading to Beijing were chosen on the selection criteria.
“The athletes that were selected had to meet Alpine Canada’s robust Olympic team selection criteria and were nominated subject to International Ski Federation (FIS) quotas earned based on Canadian athlete World Cup performance and world rankings. It’s these rankings and finishes within the qualification window (July 1, 2020 to January 16, 2022) that determine the order in which athletes are nominated to the team. Kris Mahler, within these rankings and qualifications, placed fifth amongst the team.”
Mahler won world cup gold at Nakiska in Kananaskis Country on Jan. 15, which is his lone podium of 2021-22 season. He's stepped on the world cup podium three times in his career (two golds, one silver).
"With this year, I definitely stepped it up and I had a lot of consistency and I was the only guy to qualify for every race and again the only guy to make that gold medal position, so yeah, it sucks," Mahler said. "They want to send the best team, the best guys and they do that by outlining with their numbers how they think they’re going to do that and I think it was pretty close, but yeah, it’s tough. I think there’s a little bit of debate for sure as if I could be going or not."