Canadian Olympic champion Brady Leman couldn’t have ended his 15-year career in ski cross any better than Saturday’s victory at the World Cup Finals at Craigleith Ski Club in the Blue Mountains near Collingwood, Ont.
Leman, who announced his retirement earlier this week, defeated Youri Duplessis Kergomard of France and Joos Berry of Switzerland in the men’s big final.
“I am thankful for all that ski racing has shown me,” Leman, a former alpine racer, said in a statement released by Alpine Canada on Tuesday. “There’s been so much change in ski cross from when I started to today. I guess I’ve been doing this a long time, but the thrill of racing, and winning, never got old.
“The biggest thank you of all goes to my parents who lit the spark that fueled this amazing ride.”
The Calgary native and resident also earned 2019 world championship silver, 2016 X-Games gold and 2010 bronze, but will be best remembered for winning Canada’s first-ever men’s Olympic ski cross medal five years ago in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
WATCH | Leman skis to gold in final race:
The gold medal was sweet redemption for Leman, who was fourth in the 2014 Olympic big final in Sochi, Russia.
“This is the best way to go out” 🙌🇨🇦<br><br>Canadian Olympic champion ski cross racer Brady Leman wins World Cup gold in the final race of his career at Craigleith Ski Club in Ontario 🎿 <a href=”https://t.co/Bgr58fPoJB”>pic.twitter.com/Bgr58fPoJB</a>
Leman returned to the Olympics in February 2022, placing second in the small final and sixth overall.
“I’d have loved to follow up a medal or win again, but I’m really proud of this race,” he told reporters in Beijing. “I’ve had such a difficult last two years, with so many injuries and so many obstacles, and there were so many moments when I didn’t think I’d have a chance to defend that medal and I did.”
On Tuesday, Leman added: “The successes were rewarding, but I will most remember the time with my teammates whether training, competing, or just hanging out. Those memories will always bring a smile to my face and are probably what I’m going to miss the most about ski racing.”
WATCH | Leman looks back at winning 2018 Olympic gold:
Leman entered the 2021-22 campaign fully recovered from a knee injury suffered on Feb. 27, 2021, in the big final in Bakuriani, Georgia, that ended his season. Following a slow start to the season — the three-time Olympian’s best result was 13th — Leman was in the silver medal position when he crashed on the second to last jump.
Among his career highlights is a gold-medal performance from January 2019, his second victory at Blue Mountain in three years where he prevailed in the big final by 1.06 seconds over Bastien Midol of France. Leman also took the 2012 and 2017 races at the resort.
A Crystal Globe as overall season champion is one achievement that has eluded the golf, mountain biking and hiking enthusiast.
Leman was third in 2016 and second the following season. When he was in position to make a charge for top spot, he told CBC Sports in 2020, Leman would get distracted and constantly glance at the standings to see how he stacked up to the competition.
7th at world championships
“If you’re worried about the overall all the time, you’re not focusing race to race and that’s had a negative effect on me in the past,” he said.
Leman entered this week’s competition aiming to build on a sixth-place finish in the small final last weekend in Veysonnaz, Switzerland. On Feb. 26, he was seventh in the small final at his seventh world championships after collecting bronze on Dec. 21 in Italy for his 31st podium.
“I’m hoping to end on a high, so no victory-lap run for me,” Leman told The Canadian Press. “I’m going to try to win right to the end.”
In the women’s big final, it was a 2-3 Canadian finish with Marielle Thompson of Whistler, B.C., edging teammate Britt Phelan of Mont-Tremblant, Que.
WATCH | Canada takes 2 spots on women’s ski cross podium:
Thompson collected bronze on Friday.
Last month, she earned her third medal in seven world championship appearances with silver in the debut of mixed team ski cross in Bakuriani, Georgia.
Saturday marked the first podium finish of the season for Phelan, who won silver at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. She missed qualifying for last year’s Winter Games final in a photo finish.
In February 2020, she overshot a jump in Megève, France and landed on one leg, blowing out her left knee and missing a year of skiing.
WATCH | Thompson picks up mixed team ski cross silver in Bakuriani, Georgia: