France secured its first ever Winter Olympics podium sweep in the ski cross final at Sochi on Thursday, with Jean Frederic Chapuis leading the way with gold.
Arnaud Bovolenta took silver and Jonathan Midol won bronze after the fourth finalist, Canada's Brady Leman, crashed out on the penultimate jump.
It was the second 1-2-3 in the freestyle skiing at the Extreme Park after the Americans swept the slopestyle event, and gave France a total of 14 medals in Sochi, their best tally at a Winter Games.
Bovolenta made a good start in the final, edging ahead of Chapuis before being hauled in by the world champion, who has dual nationality and raced for Switzerland in Alpine skiing before switching sports and countries in 2010.
Once Chapuis got in front, he never looked like being caught and a fall by Leman in a tangle with Midol two-thirds of the way down the mountain meant the French clean sweep was on.
After that incident Midol, whose world championship silver medallist brother Bastien was ruled out of the Games by a serious back injury, looked unlikely to catch Bovolenta and the trio settled for staying upright over the final jump.
Semi-finalist Armin Niederer apart, it was a miserable day for the strong Swiss team.
Defending champion Michael Schmid, who has had three ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments since winning gold in Vancouver, sustained another knee injury last Sunday and did not start.
Alex Fiva, the 2012/13 overall World Cup champion, was struggling with his back and failed to complete the seeding run before being taken out in a collision with Leman in the first round of heats.
As usual in the rough and tumble of the most unpredictable freestyle event, there were plenty of crashes and Fiva was by no means the only leading skier to go out early.
Medal contender Victor Oehling Norberg's exit was the most spectacular. The Swede crash-landing while leading after the final jump in his quarter-final and missing out on the semis by only a matter of centimetres in a photo finish.
The French though seem to have mastered this course. Earlier in the week, Pierre Vaultier won men’s snowboard cross to give his country its first Olympic victory in that sport’s version of side-by-side racing.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-02-20