Canada's Del Bosco and Leman ready for another shot at Olympic skicross podium
Ski cross athletes, from left to right, Brady Leman, of Calgary, Alta., Dave Duncan, of London, Ont., and Chris Del Bosco, of Montreal, Que., stand together for a photograph after being named to the Sochi 2014 Canadian Olympic team in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday January 27, 2014.
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, February 19, 2018 9:02AM EST
Longtime Canadian skicross teammates Brady Leman and Chris Del Bosco don't usually sit down and go over pre-race plans. They don't watch a lot of video together, don't talk with each other too much, and will often do course inspections on their own.
They are the anchors of a men's team that could once again contend for Olympic hardware. And they have a communication style all their own.
"We do a lot of that stuff without talking as weird as that sounds," Leman said. "But that's what it's like. You have to learn how to read the other guy, especially when you're both trying to be No. 1.
"It's a different kind of relationship for sure but we've got it figured out I think."
As Leman explains, it can be as simple as throwing a look the other's way if they're on a hill and notice a feature looks a little different. Or maybe a quick point of the finger if something else is noticed.
Welcome to the unusual world of being a teammate and competitor at the same time. It's the norm in skicross, where athletes battle the slopes and sometimes each other at the same time.
"It's cool, we've obviously had our differences over the years but we've managed to always work together on the hill still," Leman said in a recent interview. "So that's been good. We're fortunate that we've got the two of us who have had great success for a number of years now."
A contrast of styles on and off the course, they also have many things in common.
Leman, the more outgoing of the two, is an aggressive mix of power and gusto. The quieter Del Bosco is a slippery veteran with remarkable vision and feel.
Both skiers have enjoyed long runs in the mix with the sport's elite. And both have experienced the gut-punch of a fourth-place finish at the Winter Games.
Del Bosco reached the final when skicross made its Olympic debut at the 2010 Vancouver Games and Leman was the lone Canadian skier in the final run four years later in Sochi. Late crashes were to blame in both races.
Del Bosco was in third place when he crashed after taking an inside line on a jump in a last-ditch attempt to pull ahead. Leman went down on the penultimate turn of the '14 race as he desperately tried to gain some ground.
"I'm looking forward to another shot," Del Bosco said. "Third time is the charm hopefully."
Rounding out the Canadian men's team are Toronto's Kevin Drury and veteran Dave Duncan of London, Ont., who have podium potential as well. Switzerland's Marc Bischofberger is the World Cup leader and reigning Olympic champ Jean Frederic Chapuis of France are expected to be medal contenders.
Del Bosco is the lone Canadian with a victory this World Cup season but his three Olympic teammates have posted decent results as well.
Skicross results can be tough to predict given the nature of the competition. Four skiers emerge from the start at the same time and the slightest pause, nudge, or misjudgment can be the difference between elimination and making the two-man cut.
"It doesn't matter if I blow a start or whatever, I'll be fighting all the way until the end," said Del Bosco, the 2011 world champion. "I showed that in Vancouver and I still do that now and it's served me well. That's my MO."
Leman, who made his Olympic debut in Sochi, was second in last year's World Cup overall standings.
"Him and I have pushed each other a lot for the last four years, like battling it out," Leman said. "Obviously we both want to be that top guy in Canada, we both want to be on the podium. The best seasons we've had are when both of us are skiing fast."
In skicross, athletes navigate banks, turns, rollers and jumps while racing their opponents. After qualification, rounds continue through to the four-man big final, which determines podium positions.
"I guess the weird thing about skicross is it's not a team sport when it comes to racing," said head coach Stanley Hayer. "You're by yourself in qualies, it's really up to you to win your heats. Even if you have a teammate in the heat, you don't really want to rely on that too much.
"But it's a huge team sport for training and for travel and for everything else that we do."
Drury, who joined the team in 2016, is the newbie on the Canadian men's squad. Duncan, Leman and Del Bosco have all been on the team for a decade.
"The coaching staff has to manage a bunch of different type-A personalities. That's a job that I would never wish upon anyone because we're high-maintenance, a lot of us, and me especially," Leman said with a laugh. "But you figure it out and you make it work and you figure out how to work together as a team.
"That's what being on a ski team is all about from the time when you're a kid to when you're an adult competing at the World Cup level."
Hayer said the team has really worked on dynamics in recent seasons. He feels there is more respect and accountability now, adding that everyone understands that everyone else is doing their best.
"We have a really good team atmosphere now," he said. "If one guy is doing well, it kind of brings everyone along."
The men's skicross competition is set for Wednesday at Phoenix Snow Park.