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Whistler’s Thompson siblings have eyes on Olympic podium

Marielle and Broderick Thompson skiing towards second straight Olympic Games in Beijing in February
Thompson siblings
With his podium finish in Beaver Creek earlier this year, there’s a good chance both Broderick (right) and Marielle Thompson will once again be representing Canada at the Olympic Games come February.

Being just two years apart in age, Whistler’s Broderick and Marielle Thompson naturally had very similar starts to their skiing careers—on skis by two years old, participating in all of Whistler Blackcomb’s youth programs before moving on to the Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC), and eventually picking their discipline and rising the ranks to become members of the Canadian national team.

But while Broderick’s game plan has always been to follow in the footsteps of his idols like Mike Janyk and Manuel Osborne-Paradis into downhill racing, classic alpine skiing never drew Marielle in the same way. Instead, when she was 16, she decided to try ski cross, the newest addition to the WMSC’s slate of programs, and was hooked instantly.

“On Blackcomb we have the small course and I tried that in the spring [of 2009], in one of the race series they had, and I just thought going over jumps and going fast and racing alongside my friends was honestly a lot of fun and that was the big attractant,” she said.  “And now, the head-to-head aspect really makes me better, having that person there to race against. It’s very different than timed events in alpine, so it’s really the head-to-head aspect and going off the big jumps and over big features that attracted me to it.”

Meanwhile, for Broderick, that same competitive drive may have been what got him into downhill racing, but it was the speed of the sport that pulled him in.

“In the beginning, you’re racing your siblings and your friends just down the mountain, down cat tracks and I think even when you’re skiing it’s always good fun to be first, right?” he said. “So I think that’s kind of what draws you in, and then the ability to have a safe environment to go over 150 kilometers an hour on skis, that’s pretty cool. There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline you get charging down a downhill course.”

And while the two chose to pursue different disciplines of skiing, both their paths led to the Olympics.

Marielle was the first to make her Olympic debut where, as a 21-year-old, she managed to bring home the gold medal in Sochi, Russia in 2014. At the next Games in PyeongChang, South Korea in 2018, Broderick was able to make his own debut and join his sister on the world’s biggest stage.

Despite neither of the siblings’ results in those Games being what they hoped for, being able to experience the Olympics not only with each other but also with their parents cheering in the stands was something both skiers said was a special moment for the family—even if their schedules kept them so busy they barely got to see each other.

“It’s a pretty cool experience,” said Marielle, now 29. “Being at the Olympics in PyeongChang in 2018 was kind of the first time we actually had an event in the same place, even from our childhood because we’ve always been in different age brackets. So to be able to watch your siblings compete at the highest level in the world is pretty amazing.”

Now, with 27-year-old Broderick’s podium finish earlier this season in Beaver Creek, Colo.—the first podium finish for Canada in Men’s Downhill since 2017—giving him a berth to the 2022 Games, and Marielle’s hot start to the season, which includes multiple podium finishes already, there’s a very strong chance the Thompson siblings will both be representing Canada at the Olympics for the second time in a row.

When asked about that possibility Marielle said she “doesn’t want to count her chickens before they hatch,” and is trying to keep her focus on qualifying before thinking about the Beijing Games. But given her status as one of the world’s most decorated ski cross athletes—with a resume that includes Olympic gold, a World Championship gold and silver and three Crystal Globes, just to name a few—a podium finish in Beijing followed by another successful season or two could put the Whistler local in a position to be recognized as the greatest ski cross athlete ever.

And while she admits that would be “pretty cool” and “an honour,” it isn’t something she really thinks about.

Broderick, on the other hand, when asked about the potential of his sister accomplishing a feat like that and what it’s like to have a sister who might be the best ever in her sport, just laughed.

“Personally, I think she already is the GOAT of ski-cross,” he said, adding that it’s just a matter of time before everyone agrees.

The younger Thompson also uses his sister’s success as a motivational tool for his own skiing.

“Since I was five years old the goal was to win an Olympic medal,” said Broderick. “So the desire was always there, but seeing that she could do it makes it all the more real and possible.”

Coming off the 2018 Games that saw him finish 35th in Downhill, and 23rd in both Super-G and Men’s Combined, Broderick is looking to build off that experience and has his sights set on achieving that lifelong dream of standing on an Olympic podium.

“I think the goal is always the same in ski racing: to be the fastest across the finish line,” he said. “I feel with the way I’m skiing this year anything is possible, and I’m going to stick to my plan and focus on my skiing, focus on my routine, keep my head down and push for the top. I’m excited to go for it.”

With Marielle likely being a favourite to medal at the Olympics in February, if Broderick can accomplish his goal, the Thompson siblings would join Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe as the only Canadian siblings to win a medal at the same Olympic Games.

“It’d be pretty crazy, honestly. I think it would be cool, but I can’t even imagine,” said Broderick. “[I’ve] just got to stay humble and continue to work hard and anything can happen. So I’m excited to do that. And I think dreaming is good. So I’ll keep daring to dream.”

 

This article is part of a series of profile stories highlighting athletes heading to the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games, or those who hope to make it there. For others go to piquenewsmagazine.com.