Thompson tops podium in Italy 

Ski-cross racer grabs a win in advance of Nakiska

click to enlarge PHOTO BY GEPA PHOTOS/OLIVER LERCH - Big Smiles Marielle Thompson (centre) is flanked by Anna Holmlund and Heidi Zacher after winning in Watles, Italy on Sunday.
  • Photo by GEPA Photos/Oliver Lerch
  • Big Smiles Marielle Thompson (centre) is flanked by Anna Holmlund and Heidi Zacher after winning in Watles, Italy on Sunday.

The month-long Christmas break, admittedly, didn't do Marielle Thompson any favours.

But after shaking off the rust during an eighth-place finish in the first of two Watles, Italy ski-cross races this weekend, the 23-year-old recovered to dominate her way to the top spot in the second of two.

A day after Sweden's Anna Holmlund extended her overall lead with a victory in the first race, she was the victim of a patented Thompson pass. Just before the midway point of the race, the 2014 Winter Olympic gold medallist found Holmlund and German Heidi Zacher taking a turn wide, darted into the lead and didn't look back.

"For the first couple rounds, it was pretty tight, especially with Anna Holmlund. She's fast right now," said Thompson. "I knew that if I were to stay close to her, I'd hopefully make a pass on the long straightaway with all the rollers. Luckily for me, the two girls in front of me kind of tangled a bit, so I was able to just sneak by."

Thompson then held off the pack for the remainder of the race, defeating Holmlund, Zacher and France's Ophelie David in the big final.

Explaining the conditions were better suited for her style on Day 2 of action, Thompson also noted she didn't quite ski her best when she took eighth.

"The first day, the wind took away all of the draft options, so it was really hard to make passes. On the second day, all of those options were there for us," she said. "On the first day, I was making some mistakes. I was feeling a little bit rusty after not racing for a month or so."

The preparations were cut a little bit short as Thompson explained the competitors received fewer chances to train on the course leading up to the big events. Still, she found her feet and came away with a quality weekend, headlining a few days that also saw fellow Canadian Chris Del Bosco hit the top 10 twice, including a third-place in the second race.

"It did take some adjusting having a limited amount of runs, but I'm usually pretty good at adapting and it all worked out in the end," said Thompson. "The course wore down a lot on the second day, so it allowed me to work all those features really well and that's where I made most of my moves."

Speaking from a layover in Toronto, Thompson was on her way to Alberta to prepare for a race this Friday in Nakiska, where she has emerged on top the last two times out.

"I'm looking forward to it. I'm supposed to be on the course on Wednesday and then we're competing on Saturday, so it'll be a pretty quick turnaround," she said. "It's not really my home crowd but it's always nice to be skiing in front of Canadians. They're always very supportive of us.

"Nakiska has been good to me with winning the past two years, so I'm hoping I can keep that going and keep my game up to par."

It's a globetrotting part of the schedule, as after Nakiska, Thompson will boot down to Aspen, Colo. for the Winter X Games before returning to Europe for a race in Arosa, Switzerland in early February. Later this winter, she will head further east to PyeongChang, South Korea to test out the new venue for the 2018 Olympics.

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