Preview Canada's Del Bosco, Leman look to erase past demons in men's ski cross

Each finished 4th place at an Olympic Games

Canada's Del Bosco, Leman look to erase past demons in men's ski cross
Chris Del Bosco, left, and Brady Leman lead Canada's medal hopes in the men's ski cross competition. © Getty Images/Canadian Press

By Chicco Nacion, CBC Sports

Chris Del Bosco and Brady Leman have many things in common. Both men have decorated ski cross careers that include multiple Winter X Games medals, World Cup victories and podiums, and Olympic appearances. But they also share the agony of a fourth-place finish at the Games.

The Montreal-based Del Bosco and Calgary's Leman hope to change their fortunes in Pyeongchang as they lead Canada's deep men's ski cross team that also features Kevin Drury and Dave Duncan.

CBC Sports spoke with 2010 Olympic ski cross champion Ashleigh McIvor DeMerit to break down the competition, which begins Tuesday at 9:30 p.m. ET.

Course conditions

The course at Bokwang Snow Park is one of the bigger tracks on the World Cup circuit. It includes plenty of big jumps, new features and a tricky bottom-third that, if manoeuvred properly, can allow riders a chance to accelerate towards the finish.

The turns are also bigger than standard courses, which provides more room and opportunities in the corners for passing.

"When a course has such large features, a huge component is the ability to be fearless," McIvor DeMerit said. "And that will set each athlete apart from the next — who's the least scared?" 

While race strategies differ between courses and from athlete to athlete, McIvor DeMerit believes the Olympic course plays into the strengths of Del Bosco, 35, and Leman, 31.

Having trained together for years, the pair have similar styles of skiing and their ability to adapt to different terrain and conditions is what she believes sets them and the best ski cross racers apart from the rest of the competitors.

"The two of them in particular really love courses like this, with big air, that are quite demanding and require a lot of courage and confidence," McIvor DeMerit said. 

Starting strong?

The "holeshot" is the race to the first corner in a ski or snowboard cross race, and arriving first allows a rider the opportunity to dictate a race.

At that point, riders hope to be separated from their competitors to avoid getting tangled up and steer clear of any potential pileups that could take them out of the race.

But it might not necessarily be best to lead the pack right away.

"This course has such a unique set of features out of the start. It doesn't necessarily favour those who would normally be good starters. It's more of balancing power and strength with finesse and that instinctual touch on the snow," McIvor DeMerit said.  

"This course has so many lips, bumps, rollers and a huge drop right out of the start that I think we'll see a lot of changes in leadership in that first section."

The Whistler, B.C., native adds that it's not a necessity for Del Bosco or Leman to lead from the get-go because their ability to remain composed and patient can get them back into any race.

In the past, she's noticed that they've wanted it too badly and, as a result, things haven't gone according to plan. But with their experience, Del Bosco and Leman should be better at managing their hunger for success. 

"They are able to make amazing passes, so even if they don't make the holeshot out of the start, they're both able to remain calm, ski smart and wait for the right opportunity to make a move and come out on top," McIvor DeMerit said.

Plenty of challengers

Del Bosco and Leman will have plenty of competition, including the Swiss pair of Marc Bischofberger and Alex Fiva, who rank first and third, respectively, in the World Cup rankings.

McIvor DeMerit says their tall, lanky builds act like a suspension and will come in handy on a course that demands so much athleticism.

"Think about springs on a downhill mountain bike or vehicle. The longer these athletes' legs are, the more they're able to absorb the takeoff of these jumps and little lips and keep their skis on the snow generating speed. Courses with such big air favour athletes like that," McIvor DeMerit said.

Del Bosco and Leman may be the most notable Canadians but aren't the only ones in the medal hunt.

Drury is currently the top-ranked Canuck at seventh place in the World Cup standings and was fourth in the Pyeongchang test event in February 2016, while Duncan has a pair of Winter X Games medals and seven World Cup podiums on his resumé.

"It's pretty cool to have fielded a team of four athletes on the women's and men's side who are all medal contenders," McIvor DeMerit said.