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Thompson opens season with win

Holds off teammate Simmerling for first-place finish at Nakiska
TOP TWO Whistler's Marielle Thompson and Vancouver's Georgia Simmerling took gold and silver, respectively, at the FIS Ski Cross World Cup stop in Nakiska on Saturday, Dec. 6. Photo Courtesy of Alpine Canada

After an Olympic gold and Crystal Globe as FIS champ to cap off 2013-14, Marielle Thompson picked up right where she left off.

The local ski-cross racer held off the pack, including second-place finisher Georgia Simmerling, in the first FIS Ski Cross World Cup race of the year at Nakiska, Alta. Switzerland's Fanny Smith was third.

Though certainly proud of what she accomplished last season, Thompson stressed she couldn't rest on her laurels at all, with all challengers chasing her this time around. Starting off in Alberta, where she was the defending champion, was a boon to her hopes and a sign to her that she's on the right track early in the year.

"I feel like I had a really good finish to last season, but obviously, I wanted to bring that forward into this season," Thompson said. "Last year, a win in Nakiska started off a great season then, so to be able to defend that title was awesome.

"Hopefully I can keep the momentum going and continue to be successful."

Thompson acknowledged she started slow out in Nakiska, but recovered in time to make the final, where she was back to setting the course ablaze.

"I didn't have one of my fastest starts in the semifinals, so I was really happy to improve on that," she said. "In the finals, I had a really fast start and managed to sustain that the whole way.

"It got a little tight in a few spots, I guess I just had to ski defensively in a few spots, because some areas are easier to pass."

As a veteran, Thompson said she's familiar with and able to handle the intricacies of the courses on the circuit, but said there is something special about this particular stop.

"This one, it has lots of jumps, lots of technical features, and I think the whole team in general thrives on that sort of course," she said. "It's also really fun when there are so many big jumps and big features down the course."

Competing in front of a Canadian crowd doesn't have too much effect on the race, Thompson said, since she's usually so zoned in that she's oblivious to everything but the task at hand. She said she watched a tape of the final later in the day, though, and was able to gauge the crowd's excitement there.

"I could hear in the video that they were super pumped that I was in front, and when Georgia made the pass to go from third to second, they just went crazy loud when we were coming down one-two," she said.

On the men's side, Golden's David Duncan was the top Canadian, finishing fifth. Calgary's Brady Leman was eighth, Kelowna's Ian Deans was 16th, Montreal's Chris Del Bosco was 18th, Berthierville, Que.'s Louis-Pierre Helie was 21st, and Canmore, Alta.'s Tristan Tafel was 30th. Kelowna's Ned Ireland (46th), Whistler's Tyler Murray (47th), and Spruce Grove, Alta.'s Trent McCarthy (49th) also represented Canada.