Tiana Gairns has had a bumpy ride getting back to World Cup form on the ski cross circuit.
Injuries have slowed the progress of the 22-year-old Prince George Alpine Ski Club alumni but she’s back to health and made a strong push this weekend to try for her first medal racing against the best on the planet at the world championships in Idre Fjall, Sweden.
Gairns qualified fifth Wednesday and was doing well in her quarterfinal heat Saturday ranked second out of four in the race heading into the homestretch for the finish when she made a costly mistake. She came up short in one of the final step-up jumps and hit the knuckle of the hill which dropped her into third place. Only the top two advance and Gairns ended up fourth in her heat.
Sandra Naeslund of Sweden used her home course advantage to win gold, edging Fanny Smith of Switzerland and Alizee Baron of France in Saturday’s Big Final. In the men’s race, Alex Fiva of Switzerland topped the podium, with Francois Place of France winning silver and Erik Mobaerg of Sweden ending in bronze position.
Other Canadian final results were as follows: Women – 5. Courtney Hofos, Windermere, B.C.; 10. Hanna Schmidt, Ottawa; 11 Marielle Thompson, Whistler; 14. Zoe Chore, Cranbrook; Men – 5. Reece Howden, Cultus Lake; 12 Kristophor Mahler, Canmore, Alta.; 20. Brady Leman, Calgary; 26. Chris Del Bosco, Montreal.
It was on the same course in Sweden two weeks ago that Gairns posted her best-ever World Cup result when she finished fifth in her comeback race after being sidelined a month with a concussion sustained in a training run for a World Cup race in Val Thorens, France.
Coming off a knee injury, Gairns rejoined her Canadian national teammates in Arosa, Switzerland for a World Cup sprint event, Dec. 15-16 and finished 17th and 22nd. That was her first race since she placed eighth in a European Cup event in Pitzal, Austria in November 2019. During that week, the first of the race season, after finishing second in the Austrian championships she fell and tore her ACL.
Gairns missed the entire 2018-19 season with a shoulder injury which required surgery.
The World Cup tour resumes this week in Reiteralm, Austria, the mountain where Gairns first learned how to ski at age 3. Her mother Sandra is from that area and she and her husband Stuart lived there for close to a year and revisited the resort several times during the 4 ½ years they were based in Austria.
Gavin Rowell of Prince George, 21, will be back with the Canadian team in Reiteralm in his return from a concussion.
The World Cup tour will also stop this season in Bakuriani, Georgia; Sunny Valley, Russia and Veysonnaz, Switzerland.