Thompson extends lead with bronze medal 

World Cup wrap: Para-snowboarders Mosher, Leslie earn strong finishes at Big White

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID BUZZARD / WWW.DAVIDBUZZARD.COM - Sochi send-off From left, Olympic and Paralympic athletes Tyler Mosher, Matt Hallat, Ashleigh McIvor, Kelsey Serwa, Yuki Tsubota, Dave Duncan and Marielle Thompson gather at a pep rally held Tuesday, Jan. 28 at the Whistler Athletes' Centre.
  • Photo by David Buzzard / www.davidbuzzard.com
  • Sochi send-off From left, Olympic and Paralympic athletes Tyler Mosher, Matt Hallat, Ashleigh McIvor, Kelsey Serwa, Yuki Tsubota, Dave Duncan and Marielle Thompson gather at a pep rally held Tuesday, Jan. 28 at the Whistler Athletes' Centre.

Another podium finish extended Marielle Thompson's lead atop the World Cup ski cross standings this past weekend, and she's headed to the Olympics with her streak of top-five finishes still intact.

Thompson won each of her race heats on Saturday, Jan. 25 at Kreischberg before being pinched off at the first turn of the women's final and settling for a third-place finish, her fourth podium result of the season.

"It was just a really tight turn right off the bat and I thought being on the inside gate would help me," Thompson recalled during a pep rally for local Olympians and Paralympians at the Whistler Athletes' Centre on Tuesday, Jan. 28. "But it kind of also didn't, because we were all even and then Fanny (Smith of Switzerland) was like 'Yup, I'm closing the door.'"

Smith ended up second to France's Ophelie David. Canada's Georgia Simmerling placed sixth. With 480 points, Thompson holds a fairly comfortable lead over Switzerland's Katrin Mueller (408) with four World Cup races remaining, and has yet to finish outside the top five.

Whistler's Dave Duncan lost his grip on the lead in the men's World Cup standings after being eliminated in the first round of heats at Kreischberg, but remains near the top. After placing 25th on Saturday, he's now in an extremely tight race with Sweden's Victor Oehling Norberg, the new leader, and Austria's Andreas Matt. Norberg sits just three points ahead of Duncan and Matt, who are tied for second place.

"It was a weird day because you had so many guys in the top 10 eliminated in the first round, which is something you rarely ever see," said Duncan, who was one of five racers who qualified in the top 10 but were knocked out in the Round of 32. No Canadians made it through to the quarterfinals.

The ski cross team will be hanging out in Whistler for a few days before heading back over to Europe to make final preparations for Sochi.

MOSHER SEEKING CONSISTENCY

Whistler's Tyler Mosher is hoping to clean up his riding a little bit before snowboarding makes its first appearance at the Paralympics in March.

Mosher finished sixth in a World Cup race held at Big White on Sunday, Jan. 26 but said he'll need to be a bit more consistent if he wants to make a push for the podium in Sochi.

"I feel confident that I'm as good and as fast as the top riders, it's just a matter of getting two super clean, fast runs," he said. "I'm trying to go three per cent faster to compensate for being a lot more disabled than the other riders since there isn't a factoring system anymore, and I've been working with new technical coaches. I think I've just been pushing too hard to win rather than going out there to have a smooth run.

"It's such a fine line between playing it safe and coming fourth, or putting it a bit on the edge and coming first, but the flipside is that if you wipe out, you wipe out."

Mosher said the top 10 riders on the World Cup circuit are riding at a level that would rival able-bodied Nor-Am Cup competitors. Among that group is John Leslie, who recently moved to Whistler from Ontario and is having a strong season. Leslie finished third and fifth in two races held at Big White this weekend.

The next World Cup races take place in Spain in mid-February.

HUMPHRIES WINS TITLE BY A HAIR

Defending Olympic women's bobsleigh champ won the World Cup season title by the slimmest of margins — a single point — when the campaign wrapped up over the weekend in Germany.

Humphries and partner Heather Moyse slid to third place at Königssee on Sunday, Jan. 26, and had the Canadians been .03 seconds slower in the race, the title would have gone to American pilot Elana Meyers instead. The final standings saw Humphries finish with 1,629 points to Meyers's 1,628.

The Canadian men's bobsleigh team closed out the season on a high note when Justin Kripps drove to his first-ever win in two-man competition with Bryan Barnett, while Lyndon Rush and Lascelles Brown picked up bronze on Jan. 25. Rush and Brown added another bronze in four-man racing on Sunday with David Bissett and Neville Wright joining them.

GOUGH ON PODIUM AGAIN

The World Cup luge season also wrapped up over the weekend in Sigulda, Latvia, with Canada's Alex Gough finishing second in women's racing. Kim McRae had another strong outing by placing sixth. Gough finished the season ranked No. 2 on the circuit while McRae climbed up to ninth overall after top-six finishes in three of the last four events.

Sam Edney ended the year ranked seventh in the men's standings, while Tristan Walker and Justin Snith were also seventh in the doubles rankings.

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