If there’s a lesson from this past weekend’s World Cup competitions, it’s that persistence pays off.
It paid off for Manuel Osborne-Paradis, who missed the downhill podium on Beaver Creek by just 0.04 seconds.
It paid off for Larisa Yurkiw, who was cut from the national team last season only to return to competition this year with some crowd funding from Pursu.it to place seventh at Lake Louise.
It paid off for Whistler’s Morgan Pridy, who earned his first World Cup points in the super G at Beaver Creek.
And it especially paid off for Whistler’s Marielle Thompson, who opened the World Cup ski cross season with a win at Nakiska.
Thompson clears path to Olympics
Whistler’s Marielle Thompson came out of nowhere to win the overall World Cup title in the 2011-2012 season, earning the first podiums and first gold medals of her career. Last year she struggled at the beginning, but she managed to get back to the podium again by the end of the season and earn a silver medal at the world championships.
This year she left no doubt that she’s an Olympic contender, winning the World Cup opener at Nakiska, Alberta, in a final heat that was as tough as they get.
“I’m super excited that I could make this great crowd that’s been out in the cold all day proud, and I’m excited our team’s doing really well,” said Thompson. “It’s all about the start on this course. I was in that far gate so I knew I had to have a rocket start. I pulled one off and just led the whole way down. It’s just super wild that I can represent Canada at the Olympics.”
Thompson was joined on the podium by Fanny Smith (SUI) and Ophelie David (FRA).
Kelsey Serwa, returning from knee surgery, wasn’t sure she would race, but managed to make the semifinal where she got stuck behind the pack. She made up for it by winning the small final, placing fifth overall.
On the men’s side, Brady Leman battled all day in temperatures dropping to minus-30 Celsius, but managed to place third in the final heat.
“I was feeling good all day,” he said. “This course is long and tiring and I felt like that really suited me. I had to make a couple of moves to make the finals and once I was there I wanted to win so bad… It was a tough race and I was close to getting silver, but just ran out of room there at the end.”
Whistler’s Dave Duncan was 17th.
Osborne-Paradis misses podium by a fraction of a second
Whistler’s Manuel Osborne-Paradis lost almost two seasons of World Cup racing to a series of injuries, before returning to racing last season.
It was a weekly challenge, but he gradually improved his start numbers until he was back in the top group. That carried over into this season, and in the second race at Beaver Creek, Colorado, this past weekend he came within four one-hundredths of a second of the podium and 0.24 seconds of the win.
“Another fourth!” said Osborne-Paradis, referring to his fourth-place finish in the last race of the 2013 season. “It’s just a matter of time before I get a podium. I’m skiing better and I’m skiing faster and more confidently. It’s really just about putting it all together. My run was pretty clean. I made a mistake on the pitch and came out a little low and that probably cost me the race, but that’s racing.”
Teammate Jan Hudec also made the top 10 in seventh place. He qualified for the Olympics in super G the previous week, and has now punched his ticket in downhill as well. Erik Guay was 16th.
In the super G, four athletes made the top 30. Hudec was 13th while Morgan Pridy earned his first World Cup tour points in 24th. Osborne-Pardis was 27th and Erik Guay 30th.
“It feels really good,” said Pridy. “It’s a huge relief to have that first score over with. It’s like getting a monkey off my back.”
Yurkiw back in the hunt
Larisa Yurkiw was cut from the national team last season, but raised almost $22,500 so she could continue to follow her Olympic dreams without national funding.
So far she’s more than lived up to her potential, placing 15th in the downhill season opener at Beaver Creek, and then following up with a seventh place result in the first downhill at Lake Louise this past weekend. She fell off the pace a little in the second downhill race, but still earned a few additional World Cup points in 26th place.
With her results, Yurkiw has opened up a second spot on the World Cup circuit for the women’s speed team, while improving her own chances of qualifying for the Olympics by a long margin. It’s unknown if her status on the national team will be restored, but it’s only a matter of time.
In the super G, Yurkiw skied off course to finish as a DNF.