It was something no Canadian had ever accomplished before. A feat that Olympic champions, world champions and Winter X Games gold medallists representing our country had not able to achieve.
That was until a teenager from Whistler took the World Cup ski cross circuit by storm in just her second season on tour.
Looking back on Whistler’s sporting year in 2012, Marielle Thompson’s individual Crystal Globe — the country’s first in ski cross — stands out as the biggest highlight, especially considering the small number of Canadian ski racers who have taken home one of the trophies.
Thompson, now 20, outlasted the field in a year where many of the sport’s top skiers went down, one-by-one to injury. Some might argue that diminished the accomplishment, but to paraphrase a great line from Canadian ski cross head coach Eric Archer, she deserved serious credit for being the one left standing.
And as the season wound down, Thompson had to hold off French legend Ophelie David, easily the most dominant ski cross racer there has ever been. Beating the very best in your sport — that’s something any athlete would love to be able to brag about.
But when Thompson clinched the title by winning the season’s final race, there was no celebration. No champagne to be sprayed. She did not return home to a hero’s welcome.
When Nik Zoricic died in a crash at the finals in Switzerland, it was hard to think of a trophy as meaningful. It was difficult to find triumph in the face of such tragedy.
Tragedy, sadly, is something we became all too familiar with this year.
Sarah Burke’s death in January cast disbelief in the winter sport community worldwide. Here in Whistler, we acknowledged and shared how much she meant to us in an emotional memorial service that ended with a moment of noise, but didn’t end the grieving period.
We said goodbye to Sarah in 2012, but it’s not her passing we’ll remember. It was everything she did in the years before— what she did in life — that will forever stand out. Her influence and lasting legacy in freestyle skiing, the opportunities she opened for girls in the sport and the wonderful impression she left on every single person she met have become even more apparent over the past 11 months.
And, not everything this year was tragic; not every story a bad one.
Whistler’s Nick Geddes made an inspirational return to downhill mountain bike racing just months after finishing treatment for leukemia. His illness became a rallying point for athletes throughout the Sea to Sky in 2011, and his quick recovery felt like a victory for all in 2012. It’s why Thompson was able to write overtop of the “Giver for Geddes” message scrawled on the back of her helmet, replacing it with another reading “Nick won!” That story had a happy ending.
We saw the continued emergence of up-and-coming stars like Jack Iles, Yuki Tsubota, Darcy Sharpe and Jenna Spencer as they made their mark in major competitions. Brandon Semenuk captured another FMB World Tour title.
And in one of the best and most exciting performances of 2012, Whistler’s Samson Danniels brought home X Games gold after winning a thrilling Mono Skier X final. Hopefully ESPN will let him defend it some day by coming to its senses and bringing back the X Course.
Yes, Whistler and Pemberton athletes managed to give us plenty to cheer about in a year framed by tragedies. Here’s hoping 2013 is one framed by triumph.