Marielle Thompson’s slump seems to be over, but a streak of Whistler ski cross racers hitting the world championship podium continues.
Thompson captured a silver medal on Sunday (March 10) in the FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships at Voss, Norway, dedicating the accomplishment to late teammate Nik Zoricic on the one-year anniversary of his death.
It was also the one-year anniversary of Thompson winning Canada’s first individual Crystal Globe in ski cross, one that was never appropriately celebrated due to the tragic circumstances. But this achievement was a little easier to enjoy.
“I’m definitely really excited. Coming into this race, I definitely had some confidence after a good training session in Germany,” said Thompson, who won back-to-back junior races at Mittenwald the weekend prior.
“In the training here, the first couple of runs I wasn’t really killing it, so I knew I had to step it up and get my skiing up to par. I felt like I was back (on) my game and going fast today.”
The 20-year-old put together her most complete race of the season on Sunday, qualifying in fourth place and cruising comfortably through race heats to the final. Thompson finished right on the heels of Swiss skier Fanny Smith in the final, while France’s Ophelie David took bronze.
Thompson said Zoricic was on her mind as she dropped in for the medal-winning heat, and again later while she celebrated on the podium.
“This entire weekend has been pretty emotional,” she said. “Everyone’s been thinking about him, I’m sure.”
Thompson made it through her heat in the Round of 32 by placing second behind Germany’s Heidi Zacher. She then got the hole shot in both her quarter- and semifinals and took the lead to the finish both times, earning a chance to ski for a medal.
Smith got out well in front in the final but Thompson narrowed the gap significantly before the final turns. She tried to find a way around Smith but wasn’t able to find room for a pass.
“On a course like this, there aren’t many passing opportunities,” she said. “Maybe if there was another 200-metre stretch there at the end I could have, but I don’t think so. It was getting really close, though.”
Defending champion Kelsey Serwa of Kelowna missed the race and may be finished for the season after tweaking her knee in the morning training session. Thompson was able to put that news out of her mind with reassurances from team staff that Serwa was OK before going on to make it three world championships in a row where Canada has finished on the women’s podium
It’s also the third consecutive worlds in which a Whistler girl has earned a medal at the event, following Ashleigh McIvor’s gold in Japan in 2009 and Julia Murray’s silver in Utah in 2011.
“It’s definitely amazing to follow Jules and Kelsey and Chris (Del Bosco, 2011 men’s world champ) last time,” said Thompson. “Watching them compete, I definitely knew I wanted to be on the podium today. I tried my hardest and I’m glad I kept the streak alive.”
B.C. skier Georgia Simmerling finished 13th while fellow Canadian Danielle Sundquist placed 22nd.
Del Bosco was the top Canadian in the men’s event Sunday, finishing sixth. Whistler resident Dave Duncan was knocked out in the opening round and placed 19th, the same position where he qualified.
Combined with a World Cup silver earned at the Sochi test event last month, Thompson now has back-to-back podium finishes and a good stretch to end the winter could make up for some disappointing results earlier in the season.
There are three World Cup races remaining — including a doubleheader at Are, Sweden, on Saturday and Sunday (March 16 and 17) — for her to improve upon her current 14th-place standing in the women’s rankings. The Whistler skier may also race in the junior world championships in Italy after the World Cup season has wrapped up.