NAKISKA – Reece Howden is the new king of Nakiska.
The 21-year-old college student and part time ski cross racer from Cultus Lake, B.C. claimed his first world cup victory in only his ninth start, on Saturday (Jan. 18) at Nakiska Ski Resort in Kananaskis Country.
"We only get one race every year in Canada so the opportunity is pretty small to perform here," Howden said. "I don't get to race them all [because of college], but I wanted to make sure I was at Nakiska. For sure, that was something I wasn't going to miss."
Hot on his heels was teammate and current world cup leader Kevin Drury. The Canadians finished one and two, followed by Germans Daniel Bohnacker and Florian Wilmsmann, under sunny skies and a wind chill of minus-20.
“Reece was having fiery starts all day," said Drury with a huge smile about his teammates first victory. "I knew I could try a couple things and I did. I tried everything, but he just shut me down at every turn. It was awesome, I love it. That race was clean and fast."
Canmore’s Kris Mahler reached the quarterfinals to finish in 14th. The Canmorite's 1/8 final had to be re-run after Austria's Christoph Wharstotter was called for interference. In the re-run, Mahler advanced to the quarters. Despite bowing out before the semis, Mahler retained his second place overall in the world cup standings.
In the individually-timed qualifications on Friday (Jan. 17), Banff’s Zach Belczyk did not finish and as a result did not race Saturday.
On the women’s side, six Canadians qualified for the quarterfinals. Brittany Phelan was the lone Canuck in the big final and cruised down the steep technical course to claim silver on home soil.
"Racing at home is amazing," she said. "It also adds a bit of pressure because you just want to do well for your friends and family in Canada. Really happy I could make it happen today."
Sandra Naeslund of Sweden, the current women’s ski cross world cup leader, claimed gold while Switzerland’s Fanny Smith took home bronze.
The top Canadian woman heading into the weekend at Nakiska, Marielle Thompson, qualified for the small final and finished in fifth. Abby McEwen, Antoinette Tansley, Zoe Chore and India Sherret were ousted in the quarterfinals.
The ski cross circuit will shift back to Europe next weekend to Idre Fjall, Sweden for two World Cup races.