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French sweep medals in skicross at Sochi Games

KDWN

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Just shy of an elegant and historic finish in a sport where both are in short supply, France’s Jonathan Midol provided a comic reminder Thursday that in skicross, order comes from chaos, not the other way around.

Seconds after countrymen Jean Frederic Chapuis and Arnaud Bovolenta grabbed gold and silver in the Olympic final, Midol was headed across the finish to join them when he washed out landing the final jump.

Gravity did the rest.

Instead of a picturesque moment with arms aloft in triumph after France’s first-ever medals sweep in the Winter Olympics, Midol slid to bronze on his behind. Skis splayed. Poles flopped. Midol laughed.

Skicross won. So did France.

“I can’t explain how it feels,” Midol said. “We had a dream to make the podium with friends. The Olympic Games, three French on the podium is incredible.”

And unprecedented.

France’s last podium sweep in any Olympics came on men’s vault during the 1924 Summer Games in Paris. Nine decades later in a sport barely out of its infancy, the bleu, blanc and rouge will drape across the medal stand once again.

“We party together,” Bovolenta said. “We share the glory of our victories together and we generally have lots of fun in training, all the time. They were wonderful minutes when we’re on the podium together.”

Minutes that arrived only after two hours of typical skicross bedlam at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. On softening snow that rode like an indecisive escalator – fast in places, slow in others – the second run of skicross in the Olympics produced incidents and accidents that didn’t play favorites.

Gold medal contender Victor Oehling Norberg of Sweden was leading his quarterfinal heat when his skis crossed a few feet from the finish. In an instant he was joined by Jouni Pellinen of Norway and Russia’s Egor Korotkov.

Rather than advance to the semifinals, Oehling Norberg ended up third when his last-second lunge with his arms was edged out by Korotkov’s flop across the line.

“I just lost my balance,” Oehling Norberg said. “It’s my fault.”

That wasn’t always the case in an event where hard luck doesn’t necessarily lead to hard feelings.

Chris Del Bosco of Canada narrowly missed out on bronze in Vancouver in 2010 when he smashed into a gate in the finals. In Sochi, he was second fastest in qualifying, then went out in the first round of elimination races after failing to find any sort of rhythm over the series of rolling mounds, banked turns and a massive leap at the end that is the equivalent of jumping out of a six-story building at 50 mph.

John Teller of the U.S. spent most of a first-round elimination race battling with Midol for position. Three times they touched, with Teller losing his momentum after the final clash, his unlikely pursuit of an Olympic medal gone.

“That’s skicross,” the part-time auto mechanic said.

Maybe, but the 24-year-old Chapuis has discovered consistency in a sport where every trip down the mountain is equal parts courage and chance.

The former alpine skier won the world championship last year and had four top-10 World Cup finishes this season. He spent some time in Turkey last week trying to “reset” his body for the bruising Olympic course in the Caucasus Mountains.

While short on details about his preparation – “It is my secret, I’m not going to tell you,” he said with a laugh – Chapuis was dedicated to the vision his team had of making a statement in what is now France’s best-ever showing in the Winter Games.

“We had set some goals for ourselves,” Chapuis said. “I’m not the only one. Our entire team, we were training all summer. We all had really serious training so we wouldn’t stay behind.”

The Frenchmen rarely were while pushing their country’s medal total in Sochi to 14, well above the 11 France won in both Salt Lake City and Vancouver.

While Chapuis’ gold may not have been a surprise, it was a stunner to find his two good friends flanking him on the podium. In six years of World Cup racing, Bovolenta had never finished higher than sixth. Midol had only reached one final, finishing fourth, since joining the national team in 2011.

Bovolenta hardly seemed bothered by the smooth pass for the lead Chapuis made early in the final. Chapuis is the better skier and the team leader. Bovolenta called the finish “perfect,” perhaps because he spent most of it tucked in behind Chapuis trying to protect his silver medal.

Behind them, Midol was busy fending off Canadian Brady Leman, whose attempts to break up a sweep ended when he lost an edge and wiped out two-thirds of the way down the mountain.

The three good friends draped themselves in the French flag afterward, giddy as the vision of which they had long spoke had come to life.

“It’s a great victory,” Chapuis said. “It shows what kind of work we have done.”

And the work there still is to do.

“We’ll drink a little bit,” Midol said. “We’ll see. A big party it will be.”

French sweep medals in skicross at Sochi Games

KDWN

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Just shy of an elegant and historic finish in a sport where both are in short supply, France’s Jonathan Midol provided a comic reminder Thursday that in skicross, order comes from chaos, not the other way around.

Seconds after countrymen Jean Frederic Chapuis and Arnaud Bovolenta grabbed gold and silver in the Olympic final, Midol was headed across the finish to join them when he washed out landing the final jump.

Gravity did the rest.

Instead of a picturesque moment with arms aloft in triumph after France’s first-ever medals sweep in the Winter Olympics, Midol slid to bronze on his behind. Skis splayed. Poles flopped. Midol laughed.

Skicross won. So did France.

“I can’t explain how it feels,” Midol said. “We had a dream to make the podium with friends. The Olympic Games, three French on the podium is incredible.”

And unprecedented.

France’s last podium sweep in any Olympics came on men’s vault during the 1924 Summer Games in Paris. Nine decades later in a sport barely out of its infancy, the bleu, blanc and rouge will drape across the medal stand once again.

“We party together,” Bovolenta said. “We share the glory of our victories together and we generally have lots of fun in training, all the time. They were wonderful minutes when we’re on the podium together.”

Minutes that arrived only after two hours of typical skicross bedlam at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. On softening snow that rode like an indecisive escalator – fast in places, slow in others – the second run of skicross in the Olympics produced incidents and accidents that didn’t play favorites.

Gold medal contender Victor Oehling Norberg of Sweden was leading his quarterfinal heat when his skis crossed a few feet from the finish. In an instant he was joined by Jouni Pellinen of Norway and Russia’s Egor Korotkov.

Rather than advance to the semifinals, Oehling Norberg ended up third when his last-second lunge with his arms was edged out by Korotkov’s flop across the line.

“I just lost my balance,” Oehling Norberg said. “It’s my fault.”

That wasn’t always the case in an event where hard luck doesn’t necessarily lead to hard feelings.

Chris Del Bosco of Canada narrowly missed out on bronze in Vancouver in 2010 when he smashed into a gate in the finals. In Sochi, he was second fastest in qualifying, then went out in the first round of elimination races after failing to find any sort of rhythm over the series of rolling mounds, banked turns and a massive leap at the end that is the equivalent of jumping out of a six-story building at 50 mph.

John Teller of the U.S. spent most of a first-round elimination race battling with Midol for position. Three times they touched, with Teller losing his momentum after the final clash, his unlikely pursuit of an Olympic medal gone.

“That’s skicross,” the part-time auto mechanic said.

Maybe, but the 24-year-old Chapuis has discovered consistency in a sport where every trip down the mountain is equal parts courage and chance.

The former alpine skier won the world championship last year and had four top-10 World Cup finishes this season. He spent some time in Turkey last week trying to “reset” his body for the bruising Olympic course in the Caucasus Mountains.

While short on details about his preparation – “It is my secret, I’m not going to tell you,” he said with a laugh – Chapuis was dedicated to the vision his team had of making a statement in what is now France’s best-ever showing in the Winter Games.

“We had set some goals for ourselves,” Chapuis said. “I’m not the only one. Our entire team, we were training all summer. We all had really serious training so we wouldn’t stay behind.”

The Frenchmen rarely were while pushing their country’s medal total in Sochi to 14, well above the 11 France won in both Salt Lake City and Vancouver.

While Chapuis’ gold may not have been a surprise, it was a stunner to find his two good friends flanking him on the podium. In six years of World Cup racing, Bovolenta had never finished higher than sixth. Midol had only reached one final, finishing fourth, since joining the national team in 2011.

Bovolenta hardly seemed bothered by the smooth pass for the lead Chapuis made early in the final. Chapuis is the better skier and the team leader. Bovolenta called the finish “perfect,” perhaps because he spent most of it tucked in behind Chapuis trying to protect his silver medal.

Behind them, Midol was busy fending off Canadian Brady Leman, whose attempts to break up a sweep ended when he lost an edge and wiped out two-thirds of the way down the mountain.

The three good friends draped themselves in the French flag afterward, giddy as the vision of which they had long spoke had come to life.

“It’s a great victory,” Chapuis said. “It shows what kind of work we have done.”

And the work there still is to do.

“We’ll drink a little bit,” Midol said. “We’ll see. A big party it will be.”

French sweep medals in skicross at Sochi Games

KDWN

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — The sport may be unpredictable. The results looked like anything but a free-for-all.

France. France. France.

Vive la skicross.

Jean Frederic Chapuis led the first French medals sweep in Winter Olympics history Thursday, taking gold in the wild sport of skicross while Arnaud Bovolenta won silver and Jonathan Midol walked away with bronze.

“Two good friends. I can’t explain how it feels,” Midol said. “We had a dream to make the podium with friends. The Olympic Games, three French on the podium is incredible.”

The three quickly bolted ahead in front of the fourth finalist of Thursday’s medal race, Canada’s Brady Leman. Leman briefly passed Midol for the third position but wiped out two-thirds of the way down the mountain, meaning the French only had to stay upright to make history.

They did. Sort of.

The threesome skied to the line single file. Chapuis crossed first. Then Bovalenta. Then Midol, who couldn’t regain his balance after the final, sky-high jump and tumbled down, skidding across the finish to win the bronze.

Later, they posed on the podium together: Chapuis in his Olympic-issue green bib, Bovalenta in blue, Midol in yellow. They all put hands on their own tricolor – the French flag – and held it aloft.

“We practice together all the time,” Bovalenta said. “Jean is fast, he’s a world champion. Sometimes it’s Midol, sometimes it’s (10th-place finisher Jonas) Devossau and sometime it’s me.”

The French have mastered this course. Earlier in the week, Pierre Vaultier won the men’s snowboardcross contest to give his country its first gold medal in that sport’s version of side-by-side racing.

The method to the madness?

“I’m not going to tell you my secret,” Chapuis said.

This marked the sixth podium sweep of the Sochi Games – adding to four by the Netherlands speedskating teams and one by the U.S. men’s ski slopestyle squad on the same hill as the skicross competition.

Slopestyle has high jumps, big tricks and its fair share of spills. For skicross, the course is reshaped to set up a bang-em-up game, in which four racers vie for position as they travel over a series of big jumps, smaller “rollers” and sharply banked turns.

Often, skis and poles – and arms and legs – get tangled.

The scene that best showcased the chaos came in the day’s first quarterfinal, when Sweden’s Victor Oehling Norberg was comfortably in the lead approaching the finish but lost an edge and wiped out. That caused Egor Korotkov of Russia to fall and Finland’s Jouni Pellinen tumbled, too.

Switzerland’s Armin Niederer somehow skied off to the side to stay upright. The photo finish for second involved three skiers, none of them upright. Korotkov won out among the cluster of flailing skis and poles. He ended up finishing fifth.

The closest any of the French came to falling came in the day’s first heat, when Midol and American John Teller were racing side-by-side and trading elbows for position. Midol won that showdown, Teller ran off course and the French didn’t face much more trouble during the rest of a near-cloudless day in which conditions on the course changed almost by the meter – wavering between slushy and hard depending on how the sun hit the mountain.

The French hadn’t swept the medals at any Olympics since the 1924 Summer Games in Paris.

Ninety years later in Russia, this trio came through.

The 24-year-old Chapuis said it’s the culmination of four years’ of work by France’s new generation of skicross racers.

Chapuis, who has dual citizenship in Switzerland, struggled to earn spots on the Alpine teams in both countries. Then, skicross was added to the Olympic program in 2010 and he took a turn to France and over to the rough-and-tumble side of the sport – a move not all-that-uncommon among the top skicross racers.

He came to the Olympics as the 2013 world champion.

“I had a good foundation, a good background in skiing,” Chapuis said. “I managed to adapt to this discipline very quickly.”

Bovolenta, 25, broke his collarbone, shoulder blade and two ribs in July 2013, an accident that happened on a bike, when his tire burst while he was riding in the French Alps.

“Silver medal in Sochi for me,” he said. “I’m happy.”

Midol, 26, skied for Westminster College in Salt Lake City. He came to the Olympics with only one top-10 finish this season but will leave with the bronze medal and his own place among the country’s sports icons.

A celebration is on tap.

“We’ll drink a little bit,” Midol said. “We’ll see. A big party it will be.”

French sweep medals in skicross at Sochi Games

KDWN

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — The sport may be unpredictable. The results looked like anything but a free-for-all.

France. France. France.

Vive la skicross.

Jean Frederic Chapuis led the first French medals sweep in Winter Olympics history Thursday, taking gold while Arnaud Bovolenta won silver and Jonathan Midol walked away with bronze.

“Two good friends. I can’t explain how it feels,” Midol said. “We had a dream to make the podium with friends. The Olympic Games, three French on the podium is incredible.”

The three bolted ahead quickly in front of the fourth finalist of Thursday’s medal race, Canada’s Brady Leman. Leman briefly passed Midol for the third position but wiped out two-thirds of the way down the mountain, meaning the French only had to stay upright to make history.

They did. Sort of.

The threesome skied to the line single file. Chapuis crossed first. Then Bovalenta. Then Midol, who couldn’t regain his balance after the final, sky-high jump and tumbled down, skidding across the finish to win the bronze.

Later, they posed on the podium together: Chapuis in his Olympic-issue green bib, Bovalenta in blue, Midol in yellow. They all put hands on their own tricolor – the French flag – and held it aloft.

“We practice together all the time,” Bovalenta said. “Jean is fast, he’s a world champion. Sometimes it’s Midol, sometimes it’s (10th-place finisher) Jonas Devossau and sometime it’s me.”

The French have mastered this course. Earlier in the week, Pierre Vaultier won the men’s snowboardcross contest to give his country its first medal in that sport’s version of side-by-side racing.

Half the country’s four gold medals at these Olympics have come from the most unpredictable of venues: the spill-filled racing hill where the deck gets constantly shuffled.

The scene that showcased the chaos best came in the day’s first quarterfinal, when Sweden’s Victor Oehling Norberg was comfortably in the lead approaching the finish but lost an edge and wiped out. That caused Egor Korotkov of Russia to fall and Finland’s Jouni Pellinen tumbled, too.

Switzerland’s Armin Niederer somehow skied off to the side to stay upright. The photo finish for second involved three skiers, none of them upright. Korotkov won out among the cluster of flailing skis and poles and ended up finishing fifth.

The closest any of the French came to falling came in the day’s first heat, when Midol and American John Teller were racing side-by-side and trading elbows for position. Midol won that showdown, Teller skied off course and the French didn’t face much trouble during the rest of a near-cloudless day in which conditions on the course changed almost by the meter – wavering between slushy and hard depending on how the sun hit the mountain.

The French hadn’t swept the medals at any Olympics since the 1924 Summer Games in Paris.

Ninety years later in Russia, this unlikely trio came through.

Chapuis, who has dual citizenship in Switzerland, was a member of the Swiss national Alpine ski team before he switched disciplines and countries. He had the fastest qualifying time among his teammates and was also enjoying the best season of the Frenchmen, with four top-10s heading into Sochi.

Bovolenta broke his collarbone, shoulder blade and two ribs in July 2013, an accident that happened on a bike, when his tire burst while he was riding in the French Alps.

Midol skied for Westminster College in Salt Lake City. He came to the Olympics with only one top-10 finish this season and will leave with the bronze medal and his own place among the country’s sports icons.

How will they celebrate?

“We’ll drink a little bit,” Midol said. “We’ll see. A big party it will be.”

French sweep medals in skicross at Sochi Games

KDWN

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Jean Frederic Chapuis led a French sweep of Olympic skicross, taking gold while Arnaud Bovolenta won silver and Jonathan Midol captured bronze.

The three quickly bolted ahead of the fourth finalist in Thursday’s race, Canada’s Brady Lehman. Lehman briefly moved into the third position but wiped out two-thirds of the way down the mountain, meaning the French only had to stay upright to secure the sweep.

They came to the line single-file, with Midol falling just before the stripe and crossing on his backside.

The French have mastered this course.

Earlier in the week, Pierre Vaultier won men’s snowboardcross to give his country its first Olympic victory in that sport’s version of side-by-side racing.