Given the circumstances around Marielle Thompson’s World Cup season title, it wasn’t exactly a time to celebrate when the Whistler native first got her hands on the women’s ski cross Crystal Globe.
But now three weeks removed from the World Cup finale at Grindelwald, Switzerland, and the tragic fatal crash of Canadian teammate Nik Zoricic, Thompson said the incredible success of her 2012 season has started to sink in.
“The first few days, there were other things going on and I didn’t really think about it,” Thompson told The Question on Tuesday (March 27). “But people kept congratulating me, my parents have been telling everyone they know and it’s pretty cool.”
That Thompson went from being admittedly star struck by other skiers in the field when making her World Cup debut in December 2010 to becoming the Crystal Globe champion just 15 months later is a tremendous accomplishment in its own right. What makes the feat even more impressive is that she’s the first-ever Canadian skier, male or female, to win an individual ski cross season title, and did so before her 20th birthday.
“The ski techs were like, ‘This is pretty epic, you know?’ And I said, ‘No, not really.’ I didn’t realize I was such a record-breaker,” she laughed.
“I’ve just really improved a lot, that’s for sure,” continued Thompson, when asked about her quick rise through the World Cup ranks — she finished 16th in the standings in her rookie year. “It’s just been (through) building confidence, really feeling good on my skis and getting the experience.”
Thompson finished off the 2011 season by winning the Canadian Championship, emerging from a tight battle with reigning world champ Kelsey Serwa in the final. In the lead-up to this season, she said she was looking to roll the momentum from that win into her World Cup races.
Thompson did exactly that, earning her first career podium in the season opener at San Candido, Italy. That set the stage for a 2012 season that would see her collect three victories and six podium results in all.
“That was definitely a really great start and I don’t think I expected that right off the bat,” she said. “That first race, I was excited just to be in the final and then to be on the podium… was crazy.”
Thompson said her first career World Cup win at Ontario’s Blue Mountain was one of the most memorable moments of the year, especially considering it came on Canadian soil.
“Blue Mountain was awesome just because it was home turf, everyone was cheering for Canada and it was my first win,” she said. “It was just so cool to have a home crowd to experience that.”
Simply staying healthy put Thompson in a great position this year as injuries to other World Cup stars certainly had an impact on how the season played out. Serwa and Switzerland’s Sanna Luedi both suffered season-ending injuries while leading the women’s standings, while Olympic champ Ashleigh McIvor and fellow Whistler native Julia Murray both missed the entire winter with blown knees. The 2011 Crystal Globe winner, Sweden’s Anna Holmlund, also missed the season to injury.
With all of those skiers coming back next season, Thompson said she knows it will be a challenge to pick up another season title.
“It’ll definitely be tougher with all the top girls back,” she said. “But I did get on the podium in that first race when (most) were still in, so that’s reassuring.”
Thompson and the rest of the national team were able to attend Zoricic’s memorial service in Toronto earlier this month.
“It was a great service and it was definitely good to see his family and talk to them,” she said, fondly recalling Zoricic’s sense of humour. “He was such a great guy to have on the hill, a great role model and we’ll always remember him out there.”
When the national team reconvenes again at Nakiska for the national championships, going April 6 and 7, Thompson said she hopes to be able to properly celebrate her Globe and the overall team title the Canadians picked up this year.
But will she be feeling the pressure to defend her title from a year ago?
“A couple people have asked me that. I’m just going to go out there and do my best. If it happens, that would be awesome, but if not, someone else will get lucky. But I’m definitely going to go for it,” she laughed.