Whistler’s Marielle Thompson has looked solid in her World Cup ski cross race heats during the early part of the season, but it’s getting into those heats that has been a challenge for last year’s Crystal Globe winner.
Thompson finished 11th at San Candido, Italy, on Dec. 23 in a race that saw her Canadian teammates Kelsey Serwa and Georgia Simmerling finish one-two.
Thompson battled hard in a quarter-final that featured contact between skiers and several position changes, but Swiss stars Fanny Smith and Katrin Mueller earned the heat’s top two spots to advance.
The 20-year-old earned the 16th and final qualification spot for the Italian race, coming dangerously close to missing out on heats for the third time in four races. That’s obviously not the way she was hoping to start her World Cup season title defence.
“I’m kind of disappointed but I made mistakes on qualifying runs … and I know I can do better,” Thompson said Tuesday (Jan. 1). “Racing is kind of more my thing than qualifying — once I’m in the race, I’m usually pretty good. My coaches have said I’ve been skiing well, so I’m happy that way, and hopefully in the new year I’ll have some better luck.”
After the tough start to the season, Thompson is stuck in a tie for 15th in the rankings. She said there are some elements of her skiing she’ll be looking to tighten up in qualifying runs when the World Cup schedule resumes Jan. 11 at Les Contamines, France.
“I just wasn’t paying attention to my aerodynamics as much as I should have been, so I’m definitely going to try and stay tighter in my tuck and hopefully that will shave off a lot of time in my qualifying,” she said.
Thompson has spent the holiday break at home in Whistler, skiing with younger brother, Broderick, and the rest of the men’s B.C. Ski Team during her stay.
“It’s been great, I kind of got the tail end of all the nice snow we had,” she said.
Serwa knocked out Smith in the semifinals at San Candido before taking the victory, ending the Swiss skier’s three-race win streak. It was her first podium since returning to the World Cup circuit from injury, while Simmerling earned the first top-three result of her career.
The Canadian ski cross team is expected to head back to Europe on Sunday (Jan. 6). Thompson reached the semifinals and placed eighth at Les Contamines last season.
Duncan back in top 10
Whistler resident Dave Duncan earned his third-consecutive top-10 finish at San Candido, reaching the quarter-finals and placing 10th.
Duncan finished third in his quarter-final heat, unable to catch teammate Louis-Pierre Hélie, who took second to advance to the semis for the first time since switching over from the national alpine team.
Canada’s Brady Leman won the small final to take fifth place and Hélie wound up eighth. Canadian teammates Mathieu Leduc (21st) and Tristan Tafel (25th) were knocked out in the round of 32.
Duncan sits ninth in the men’s World Cup standings after four events. He’ll be looking to improve upon his best previous result at Les Contamines — an 11th-place showing in 2010 — when returning to racing there next week.