Whistler’s Marielle Thompson is an Olympic champion, leading a one-two finish with Kelowna’s Kelsey Serwa to claim gold in the women’s ski cross final held Friday at Sochi’s Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.
Last year, Serwa took gold and Thompson grabbed silver in the World Cup test event from Sochi. This time, they swapped positions on the podium. Sweden’s Anna Holmlund finished with the bronze.
“It’s crazy. I don’t even think it’s sunk in yet,” Thompson told CBC shortly after the race finished. “I think when it’s actually in my hands I’ll just be overjoyed. I don’t even have words right now.”
Thompson earned her medal in the same manner that she’s dominated this 2013-14 season, getting off to strong starts and keeping out of trouble all the way to the finish. In Friday’s final, the two Canadians got out in front and were never
challenged for the top two positions, then shared an embrace at the finish in celebration.
“I just kind of had a big wave of emotions and was like ‘Whoa, I’m going to win right now. This is so crazy,’” Thompson said to CBC, describing what she was thinking as she came over the final jump. “Kels and I tried to help each other the whole way down the course.”
After Thursday’s men’s event that saw many of the favourites and top qualifiers make early exits, the skiers expected to contend in the women’s event delivered. The top four racers from the seeding runs were the four who made it through to Friday’s final, with French legend Ophelie David being the one left without a medal.
The only time Thompson had difficulty of any kind was in the quarter-finals, when she sat second behind Switzerland’s Sanna Luedi for most of the heat. When Australia’s Katya Crema challenged them from third place near the finish, Luedi and Thompson made contact and the Swiss skier went down, but Thompson was able to stay upright and advance.
Following Ashleigh McIvor’s victory from the 2010 Games when the sport made its Olympic debut, both women’s ski cross gold medals have now been captured by Whistler skiers.
“I’ve had so much support from my small community of Whistler,” Thompson said to CBC. “I’ve had so many messages over the past few days from well wishers and I’m really glad to have all that support. My mom and dad and my uncle are all here in Sochi and I’m glad they got to see.”
Canada’s Georgia Simmerling was eliminated in the quarter-finals and placed 14th.