Introducing Skier X favorite Anna Holmlund
No X Games rookie has won Women's Skier X gold since 2000, when unsponsored 27-year-old Anik Demers-Wild arrived in Mount Snow, Vermont, with five-year-old skis, a dislocated kneecap and "For Rent" scratched into a piece of duct tape on her helmet.
Times have changed. Anna Holmlund, a 28-year-old Swede, will make her X Games debut in 2016's Coors Light Women's Skier X, but she carries sponsors, the best equipment possible and a resumé that includes two FIS Crystal Globes and 15 World Cup victories. While Demers-Wild was barely on the radar in 2000, Holmlund can't be missed. When was the last time an event rookie was the favorite in a discipline with a long X Games history?
Of course, 2016 is the first time Skier X will be contested at X Games since 2012, and a lot of athletes have either established themselves or been surpassed in those four years. One name familiar to X Course fans who is still going strong? Ophelie David, who captured the first four-peat in X Games Ski history when she claimed her fourth straight gold at Aspen 2010. While still competitive and with nearly twice as many World Cup starts (and wins) as anyone in the field, the 39-year-old enters Aspen 2016 as the underdog to Holmlund.
David and Holmlund are hardly the only accomplished athletes in the field, which thus far includes an Olympic gold medalist, three FIS World Champions and four FIS Crystal Globe recipients but just three X Games medalists. After winning the 2011 Crystal Globe, Holmlund suffered separate devastating knee injuries, one to her left and one to her right. The left was "only" an ACL. The right was a torn patella tendon, ACL, MCL and both menisci. She missed X Games Aspen 2012 and the entire 2011-2012 season.
In 2014, Holmlund earned bronze at the Sochi Olympics and then reclaimed the Crystal Globe in 2015. She has two wins and four podiums in the five events held in 2015-2016. A fitness maniac, she's also six feet tall and nearly 170 pounds. Judging by the above Instagram video, she no longer has knee issues.
At age 15, Holmlund was a promising Swedish national soccer player. At the time, skiing was just a sideline sport. According to her website, the "spark for football began to cool and the craving for skiing became stronger." She tried skiercross at age 20, went to camp and was hooked.
In 2012, seven of the 12 XG Skier X women were rookies. The 2016 field is still being filled, but that stat might be matched (half of the 10 on the current roster are rookies). No 2012 medalists are on the invite list right now, but the entire 2011 podium is invited -- gold medalist Kelsey Serwa and bronze medalist Fanny Smith join David in the field. The 2012 champ, Marte Gjefsen (NOR), is on the alternate list. Gjefsen is still competing, but she's won just a sole FIS World Cup race since her XG gold, despite a top-10 ranking each year.