Whistler’s Marielle Thompson might have a nice little podium streak in the works had it not been for an unlucky turn of events on Saturday (March 16) in Sweden.
The reigning women’s ski cross Crystal Globe champ returned to the podium on Sunday (March 17) when she finished second in the back half of a doubleheader at Are. But the 20-year-old was poised to ski for another medal on Saturday until her ski popped off in the semifinals. She went on to win the small final to place fifth.
Considering the difficult start to Thompson’s season — which saw her advance past the quarter-finals just once in seven World Cup starts — the fact that a fifth-place finish could be considered disappointing is a testament to just how much her season has turned around.
“It’s great to be back on the podium,” Thompson said in a release following Sunday’s podium performance. “I definitely would like to win but after the start I had to this season, it’s great to be feeling good and skiing well.”
Including her world championship silver medal, Thompson has been on the podium in three of her last four major races. Though she mathematically can’t retain her World Cup title from last winter, she has climbed to seventh in the season rankings and has been Canada’s most consistent performer in men’s or women’s ski cross since the Sochi Olympic test event last month.
Thompson won her quarter-final on Sunday and finished second in her semifinal to advance to the last round. Fanny Smith held off Thompson for the win, extending the Swiss skier’s lead atop the World Cup standings, while Switzerland’s Katrin Mueller earned bronze. West Vancouver’s Georgia Simmerling fell in the final and placed fourth.
“Out of the start in the final we were all kind of in a pack,” said Thompson. “Going into the first turn, I took a good line and followed Fanny all the way down. I almost got her at the end.”
On Saturday, Thompson was sitting second in her semifinal heat when she lost her ski landing a jump. She got the hole shot in the small final and led the whole way to secure the fifth-place finish.
“I didn’t hurt myself,” said Thompson. “It was just one of those things.”
Simmerling also reached the small final and placed seventh for the next-best Canadian finish.
The Canadian men struggled at Are, with Chris Del Bosco’s eighth-place finish on Saturday marking the team’s best result over two races. Whistler resident Dave Duncan was knocked out in the opening round of heats Saturday and placed 24th. He advanced through to the quarter-finals on Sunday but saw his race end there, placing 16th.
The team also found out Saturday that Kelowna’s Kelsey Serwa tore an ACL on the same knee she injured last season and will need surgery. The 2011 world champ will hope to be back to 100 per cent in time for next year’s Olympics, at which she would be a medal favourite.
“We were all pretty shocked,” Thompson said of learning about Serwa’s setback. “It was really frustrating … but she will be back.”
The World Cup season concludes Sunday (March 24) at Sierra Nevada, Spain, but Thompson is planning to remain in Europe for the FIS Freestyle Junior World Ski Championships, running March 26 to 31 at Chiesa in Valmalenco, Italy.
Henitiuk, Hicks return to moguls team
Whistler residents Chelsea Henitiuk and Eddie Hicks made their return to the Canadian moguls team at Are, which hosted a World Cup singles contest on Friday (March 15) and duals on Saturday.
Henitiuk, who skipped the world championships while dealing with the lingering effects of a leg injury suffered in January, finished 18th on Friday and 22nd on Saturday. Hicks, making his first World Cup starts of the year after going out to injury in a preseason crash, placed 30th in the men’s singles event and 33rd in duals on Saturday.
The World Cup moguls circuit also wraps up at Sierra Nevada with a duals event on Friday (March 22).