One mistake in qualifying derailed Whistler’s Marielle Thompson just enough to have her watching World Cup ski cross heats from the sidelines on Saturday (Dec. 8).
Last year’s overall World Cup champ finished 19th in Friday’s (Dec. 7) timed qualifier of the season-opener at Nakiska, Alta., 0.23 seconds out of the top 16 skiers advancing to Saturday’s quarter-final.
But there won’t be much time to dwell on the result, with the next race going Thursday (Dec. 13), and the quick turnaround seems just fine with Thompson.
“I can’t blame anyone but myself,” Thompson, 20, said in a release. “I’m looking forward to the next race. I just want to race.”
Canadian head coach Eric Archer said he expected Thompson to rebound from her result at Nakiska.
“Marielle made a big mistake in her run and that’s all it takes on this course,” said Archer. “With one mistake, she’s only two-tenths out of qualifying, and I think she probably lost about a second. So she’s going to be fine.”
World champion Kelsey Serwa qualified second in her return from a knee injury, but the Kelowna native was stopped in the quarter-finals, finishing ninth. She and teammate Georgia Simmerling were both ousted by a tough heat that included Sweden’s Anna Holmlund and Swiss skier Katrin Mueller.
Holmlund and Mueller both reached the final but Switzerland’s Fanny Smith won in her return from a blown knee on Saturday, holding off French veteran Ophelie David.
Canadians Danielle Sundquist and Mariannick Therer were also outside the top 16 in qualifying.
Three Canadians qualified for Saturday’s men’s heats, but Whistler resident Dave Duncan wasn’t among them. Duncan finished 44th on Friday, falling short of the group of 32 who advanced as the course seemed to speed up for those making later starts.
“My run wasn’t my best ever, but I thought it was good enough to qualify,” said Duncan, who was the 15th of nearly 70 skiers to drop on Friday. “Mother Nature had different plans. The track’s speeding up and I’m on the outside looking in.”
Brady Leman finished second in Saturday’s small final, placing sixth overall for the top Canadian men’s finish. Teammate Louis-Pierre Helie, making his debut since switching over from the alpine team, finished 25th, and fellow World Cup newcomer Ian Deans was 27th. Tristan Tafel and Mathieu Leduc did not advance either, while Whistler’s Robert Lepine will miss significant time with a knee injury and did not race.
Swiss skier Armin Niederer won each of his heats to take top spot, sharing the podium with countryman Alex Fiva and bronze medallist Anton Grimus of Australia.
Qualifiers for Thursday’s World Cup races were ongoing at press time Wednesday (Dec. 12).
Ricker gets ‘kick in the butt’
Maëlle Ricker’s World Cup season didn’t get off to the start she was hoping for, either, but the Sea to Sky snowboarder feels like she’s headed in the right direction to defend her Olympic title next winter.
Ricker finished 13th in the first snowboard cross World Cup of the winter at Montafon, Austria, on Saturday (Dec. 8), unable to advance from her quarter-final heat. Given that it was the first time in 27 World Cup races that the 34-year-old has finished outside the top 10, Ricker said the result was “eye-opening.”
“I can’t even remember the last time I went out in the first round, to be honest. It’s probably been five or six years, so it was definitely really frustrating,” said Ricker. “I didn’t ride well at all. I had a bad start, technically didn’t ride well and the younger girls are getting faster and faster.
“I’ve just got to look forward and let that one be water off my back.”
Ricker, who resides in Squamish and rides out of Whistler Blackcomb, said her finish at Montafon should be a “kick in the butt” ahead of the next World Cup stop, running at Telluride in conjunction with ski cross races this week.
A successful offseason has Ricker “quite a bit” stronger than when she won Olympic gold in 2010. That has her encouraged about how things are lining up with the Sochi Games now just 14 months away.
“It’s just a matter of putting it together, and I’ve been around long enough, so I should be able to do that,” laughed Ricker.
Canada’s Dominique Maltais won at Montafon on Saturday, while Whistler resident Carle Brenneman was also knocked out in the quarter-finals, placing 16th. In the men’s event, Italy’s Omar Visintin was the winner and Ontario’s Jake Holden was the top Canadian in 12th spot. Squamish-based rider Rob Fagan was 33rd, one-tenth of a second short of advancing to heats.