INCREDIBLE FINISH AS LIMBACHER AND FLISAR CLAIM FINAL KREISCHBERG 2015 GOLDS
Photos & text courtesy of FIS

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The final event of the Kreischberg 2015 FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships ended 12 days of competition off in truly epic fashion, with a thrilling ski cross competition that saw Andrea Limbacher (AUT) and Filip Flisar (SLO) claim the final gold medals of the Championships.

Limbacher won gold for Austria in incredible fashion, passing ageless veteran Ophelie David (FRA) near the top of the course and then staving off heavy pressure from David and 2013 World Champion Fanny Smith through the courses middle section, before Smith had a near-crash and dropped off the pace.

Around the final corner and over the final jump David made a cagey move to pick up extra speed, catching Limbacher in a drag race to the finish. Crossing the line side-by-side while reaching desperately for the finish, neither the ladies, the officials, nor the huge crowd gathered could be sure who had taken gold until the photo finish results flashed on the screen to show Limbacher had secured victory by less than a hand.

"It's unbelievable, seeing I won gold," Limbacher said about the photo finish, "I would have been happy with silver, but I'm happier with gold. I knew I was in good shape today, I was hoping for some luck, and that if everything went well for me today the gold medal was possible, and I caught it!"

It was an ending that couldn't have been scripted any better, and a career-defining performance for Limbacher over the past season and a half to re-find her form after an ACL injury two season ago, as she looked white-hot in every heat on her way to the win. Silver went to David, Smith was forced to settle for bronze, and Julia Eichinger (GER) would become the first of two heartbreaking fourth-place results for the Germans.

Filip Flisar's victory in the men's finals was a series of victories, as the burly Slovenian first had to overcome a series of illnesses and injuries over the past two season to return to the form that saw him win the 2011/12 ski cross crystal globe, and then in a more defined way on the day, as he fought from behind in every heat to claw his way to the big final.

In the big final he would face down two of the most dominant men in ski cross, with 2013/14 crystal globe winner Victor Oehling Norberg (SWE) and Voss 2013 World Champion and Sochi 2014 Olympic Champion Jean Frederic Chapuis (FRA) lined up alongside him.

Out of the gate it was Oehling Norberg continuing what he had been able to do all afternoon, locking in a fast start and moving smoothly into the lead, followed closely by Chapuis, with Flisar in third and Paul Eckert (GER) bringing up the rear.

Oehling Norberg had been untouchable up to the big final, and it looked for sure like he would take home gold, but heading into the final corner Flisar made a quick outisde-inside move, dove under both the men in front of him, and shot into a lead he would carry the final few meters through the finish.

"Finally I get everything together, man," Flisar said after the awards ceremony, "It was a long time. I was having hard times last season, but it seems that I still have the motivation and that I can still get it together and ski when I need it. That's what I did and I've got it (the gold medal) now."

Behind him, Chapuis was able to take advantage of the same opening on Oehling Norberg to move into second and take the silver. The big Swede was left with bronze, while Eckert would be the second German fourth-place on the day, making for a bittersweet result for the Deutscher Skiverband.

As is so often the case in ski cross, several of the favourites saw their competition ended earlier than expected, as Marielle Thompson (CAN), Thomas Zangerl (AUT), Heidi Zacher (GER), Andreas Schauer (GER), Armin Niederer (SUI) and several others were involved in crashes that knocked them out of contention. Perhaps even more unfortunately, top ladies' qualifier Georgia Simmerling (CAN) saw her chances dashed before competition even began, suffering an injury in training the morning before the race.

At the end of the day though, two worthy new World Champions would be wearing gold medals, and the Kreischberg 2015 FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships would close with one of the great ski cross competitions we have witnessed.

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