NAKISKA — Brady Leman estimates he’s logged hundreds of runs at Nakiska Ski Resort while growing up in nearby Calgary. One at age 12 was particularly memorable for him.
“One of my earliest memories as a kid skiing here was getting my pass pulled for skiing too fast at a kid’s camp,” Leman said Wednesday at the resort.
It was a sign of things to come. No one will red light Leman at the Audi Ski Cross World Cup starting Friday at Nakiska. The faster the better as Leman chases the season’s World Cup overall title in men’s ski cross.
The 28-year-old has stood on the podium in four out of seven races this winter, but is still looking for his first win of the season. Leman trails overall leader Jean-Frederic Chapuis of France by 60 points.
“I’ve found a lot of consistency this year and I’ve been able to put myself in the mix every race so far,” Leman said.
“Winning a crystal globe would be a huge, huge accomplishment. It’s really early in the season still and I’m definitely just trying to take it race by race but it’s something that’s always in the back of your mind. No Canadian male has ever won one for Canada. Taking that home at the end of the season would be a dream come true.”
Montreal’s Chris Del Bosco is 71 points back of Leman in third. Del Bosco, 32, won the first two races of this season in Montafon, France and Val Thorens, France.
Leman finished second in the overall World Cup ski cross standings in 2011-12. He made the Olympic men’s four-man final in 2014, but was beaten by three Frenchmen including gold medallist Chapuis.
The Canadian Olympic Committee and Slovenia launched a joint protest claiming the French team altered the shape of the athletes’ ski pants for better dynamics. The appeal was denied.
Leman and Del Bosco are among 15 Canadians entered in Friday’s qualifying rounds at the ski resort west of Calgary in Kananaskis country.
Reigning Olympic champion Marielle Thompson of Whistler, B.C., is chasing back-to-back victories after her win Sunday in Watles, Italy.
“I definitely like being here in Nakiska,” Thompson said. “It helps that I’ve won the past two years. Gives me the confidence I need to hopefully dominate this weekend.”
Thompson, 22, hoisted the women’s crystal globe in both 2012 and 2014. Last season ended early for her at February’s world championship, where her knee connected with a competitor’s during a race.
Thompson sustained ligament damage, but bounced back winning the season-opener in Montafon.
“My knee is good,” Thompson said. “It was tough being off last season, but I’ve come back strong.”
Her teammate and Olympic silver medallist Kelsey Serwa of Kelowna, B.C., is also in the field for the lone Canadian stop on the 14-race World Cup circuit.
Ski cross made its Olympic debut in 2010 when Canada’s Ashleigh McIvor won women’s gold. Four skiers race each other down a course of bumps and jumps with the top two advancing to the next rounds until the final.
Nakiska, which was the site of the alpine ski racing at the 1988 Olympic Games, is a leg-burner for the ski crossers as it is about 20 seconds longer than most courses they race. The big features on the track keep them busy on the way down.
“Lots of air time on this one,” Thompson said. “I feel like we’re in the air every 10 seconds.”