It may have been way below freezing in Nakiska, Alberta but Marielle Thompson got her World Cup season off to a hot start and locked up her spot on the Sochi 2014 Olympic team to earn Athlete of the Week honours.
At the season-opening World Cup stop for ski cross, cold temperatures played havoc with the schedule. There were to have been two races over the weekend, but with the thermometer approaching -30°C, Friday’s race was postponed to Saturday while Saturday’s race was cancelled altogether. That gave Thompson just one shot at a podium on home soil and she delivered.
Thompson dominated all three of her elimination heats to reach the Big Final where she faced off against the top three women from last season’s World Cup standings: Switzerland’s Fanny Smith as well as France’s Ophelie David and Marielle Berger Sabbatel. Because she was the lowest ranked of the four from the qualification round, Thompson was forced to start the final from an outside gate position. After powering out of the start, she slid cleanly across to an inside lane from which she extended her lead and cruised to the victory.
“I’m super excited that I could make this great crowd that’s been out in the cold all day proud and I’m excited our team’s doing really well,” said Alpine Canada’s Thompson. “It’s all about the start on this course. I was in that far gate so I knew I had to have a rocket start. I pulled one off and just led the whole way down.”
“This is going to be great for my confidence.”
Thompson had been pre-qualified for Sochi 2014 based on her 2012-13 season in which she won a pair of World Cup silver medals (including one at the Olympic venue in Sochi) and captured silver at the FIS World Championships. She also won gold at the 2013 FIS World Junior Championships. That meant she needed just one top-12 result this season to confirm her Olympic berth. A year earlier, Thompson had been the first Canadian ski cross racer to win a Crystal Globe as the overall World Cup champion.
“It’s just super wild than I can represent Canada in the Olympics,” said Thompson. “This is going to be great for my confidence. I had some great results at the end of last season so I was really trying to build on those coming into this season.”
Next up for the ski cross team will be the World Cup in Val Thorens, France, with qualification set for Saturday December 14 and the finals on Sunday December 15. Canadians can watch Thompson’s victory in Nakiska on CBC this Saturday, December 14 at 2:00pm ET.