NAKISKA – Following his gold medal-winning race at Nakiska on Saturday, Canmore’s Kris Mahler is eagerly awaiting the decision about his future at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Heading into the weekend at Nakiska, Mahler only had a single semi-final appearance over the past season-and-a-half, which was at the start of last season. Before Saturday’s race his best result this season was 10th in Innichen, Italy, in December.
The 26-year-old was sitting outside looking in for a ticket to Beijing.
“Saturday, huge day, take home the win on home soil. It was something special for sure. The past season-and-a-half hasn't really been going that well. I mean, my stats weren't amazing, but I felt like my skiing was really solid. I think I was where I wanted to be in terms of my consistency. My starts were good. I just was kind of getting unlucky in a few spots, a couple of pilot airs on a couple of different races. And before you know it, you got a season and a half of results that you're not necessarily super proud of and with the Olympics, obviously this season, it just made it even that much worse,” said Mahler.
“So that win was huge. I mean, I knew I needed to step onto a podium and probably close to another good result to have a chance at the Olympics. So to make it happen and then to take a step onto that top step was very special. I never dreamt that I'd be winning a world cup race on home soil 30 minutes from home.”
Following Saturday’s gold medal, Mahler is now the third-ranked Canadian racer, with a proposed four Olympic spots available for Canadian men. He knows a spot at the Games is not confirmed yet and is eagerly anticipating the announcement, which is expected within a week.
Mahler said the added pressure of making the Olympics has been a constant thought in his mind over the past two years, but added once he is in the start gate he is only focused on racing.
“Beijing's been on the back of my mind now for the past two seasons for every race you're thinking about it a little bit… When I step in those skis, I’m just focused on that run and I can't really be thinking about Beijing. You never want to think about the future. You just need to be in the present and just do what you can in that moment.”
En route to his second world cup victory, Mahler was able to capitalize on his always dependable strong starts and seize the whole shot out of the gate, leading all but one of his heats.
“When I'm leading the race, I know I can be one of the fastest guys down any track in the world. Obviously leading, it's the best spot to be. I don't really worry about those guys behind me,” Mahler said.
In the big final, the Canmore-product held off Germany’s Florian Wilmsmann and Switzerland’s Ryan Regez, who finished second and third respectively, in a tightly contested four-man final. Reigning Olympic champion Brady Leman of Canada finished fourth.
Sweden’s Sandra Naeslund raced her way to a second gold medal in as many days, while Canada’s Marielle Thompson and Switzerland’s Fanny Smith rounded out the podium.
In Friday’s race, Kevin Drury was the lone Canadian on the podium, finishing second in the men’s race. Sweden’s David Mobaerg cruised to the gold and the podium was rounded out by Germany’s Tobias Mueller.
Saturday's race was the Canadian ski cross team's final competition ahead of next month's Winter Olympics in Beijing.