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Last chance for Canadian ski cross Olympians this weekend at Nakiska

This one is for all the marbles.
Canmore’s Kris Mahler (pictured) and Banff’s Zach Belczyk have one last shot to earn a ticket to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and they get to do so on home soil
Canmore’s Kris Mahler (pictured) and Banff’s Zach Belczyk have one last shot to earn a ticket to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and they get to do so on home soil Friday and Saturday at the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup at Nakiska.

This one is for all the marbles.

Canmore's Kris Mahler and Banff's Zach Belczyk have one last shot to earn a ticket to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and they get to do so on home soil Friday and Saturday at the Audi FIS Ski Cross World Cup at Nakiska.

The qualifiers run Friday (Jan. 19), while the heats start at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday (Jan. 20).

"This world cup is a fun one. We'll have the crowd out, friends and family," Mahler said. "Nakiska was the first world cup course I skied in ski jump, so it's always special."

The event is almost a year to the day Mahler suffered a brutal shoulder separation during a crash in Italy, which ripped his humorous bone out of the joint, and left it stuck above his head for three hours. Incredibly, it was the first big injury of Mahler's ski career, and his recovery went remarkably well.

Prior to the accident, Mahler's results had been improving steadily, and he was catching many of the Canadian leaders. This season, he started off strong with a second-place finish in a Europa Cup, and had an 18th-place qualification time last month in Switzerland. The results are solid, but Mahler knows he is capable of more.

"It's been an interesting year coming off injury," Mahler said. "In this sport, the little things make the big differences. I am skiing well and it looks like things are working well. It's the little things that are compounding."

Not one to overthink his struggles, Mahler knows he can succeed by keeping things simple and executing his game plan. His confidence hasn't wavered through the injury, and he still believes he is capable of reaching his dreams.

"Obviously the Olympics are on my mind this week, but not when I'm in the start gate. In the gate, I'm focused on the here and now," Mahler said.

Competing in front of his friends and family, Mahler said the day will be extra special. He's already had a team dinner with his family, and is happy to see some familiar faces.

"The people at the finish line are the ones who got me to where I am today," Mahler said. "Everything is familiar, and it's nice to be at home. From that aspect, it's nice to be at home and relax."

Belczyk, 21, finished second at the 2017 world junior ski cross championships in Italy. Considered one of Canada's best ski cross prospects, the SAIT student is getting a chance on the world cup in Nakiska.

Since it's a home world cup, Canada will send a large team. Mahler and Belczyk will be joined by Brady Leman, Chris Del Bosco, Dave Duncan, Kevin Drury, Mathieu Leduc, Ian Deans, Kevin MacDonald, Ned Ireland, Reece Howden, Trent McCarthy, Britt Phelan, Georgia Simmerling, Kelsea Serwa, Abby McEwen, Alexa Velcic, Antoinette Tansley, Courtney Hoffos, India Sheret, Tiana Gairns, and Zoe Chore.

This is the fifth time Nakiska has hosted a world cup ski cross event.




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