Third for Thompson to start 2018-19 

Whistler racer happy with podium finish in season opener

click to enlarge PHOTO BY GEPA COURTESY OF ALPINE CANADA - High flying Marielle Thompson put up a third-place finish at the first FIS World Cup in Arosa, Switzerland on Dec. 16.
  • Photo by GEPA courtesy of Alpine Canada
  • High flying Marielle Thompson put up a third-place finish at the first FIS World Cup in Arosa, Switzerland on Dec. 16.

In a long-awaited return to FIS World Cup action, Marielle Thompson took a third-place finish at the first race of the season in Arosa, Switzerland on Dec. 16.

After qualifying in second, the 26-year-old placed behind only Switzerland's Fanny Smith and Sweden's Sandra Naeslund en route to a podium finish.

"I'm super happy with last night," Thompson said on Dec. 17. "It was the first World Cup back so I was just stoked to be in the final and then to be on the podium was awesome.

"I definitely had some confidence going into the race that I could ski the course well and fast. I tried to focus on my game plan with a quick start, making sure I'm making all the transitions on the little start section and being first to that first turn."

On a short course that emphasized the importance of a blazing start, with runs taking roughly 28 seconds, it was Thompson's competition that emerged immediately and skied to the top two positions.

"I got a little bit stuck outside in the final and with it being a sprint race, there wasn't really anywhere to go," she said. "It was a little bit shorter, so there was not as much room to make passes."

One other element Thompson enjoyed was that Arosa is typically a night race, which encourages many of the town's roughly 2,000 inhabitants to come check out the contest.

"There were a lot of fans out. Even though it was a Monday night, a lot of the town was out watching us," she said. "It's nice to have that much support."There are some drawbacks, however, to operating on a schedule that's different from usual.

"It's pretty challenging to get ready for the night races, because you have pretty much all day waiting around until we go, but it's fun," she said. "It's a lot of fun racing at night and it's a great atmosphere."

Other Canadians included Brittany Phelan in sixth, Thompson's fellow Whistler Mountain Ski Club alum Mikayla Martin in ninth, India Sherret in 11th and Kelsey Serwa in 14th. Brady Leman was the top Canadian on the men's side, finishing 10th. Kevin MacDonald and Kevin Drury were back to back in 15th and 16th, respectively, while Reece Howden placed 19th and Chris Del Bosco 27th. Full results are online at www.fis-ski.com.

The Arosa race came more than two weeks after the World Cup season was initially scheduled to have begun, but the cancellation of the Val Thorens event, the delay by six days of the Arosa contest and cancellation of Montafon race meant Arosa became stop No. 1. It also comes more than three weeks after Thompson's previous races, where she won a pair of hotly contested events in Pitztal, Austria at the end of November.

Though it was frustrating to hurry up and wait, in a sense, Thompson is excited for a pair of races this weekend in Innichen, Italy. Those will be the last events for about a month, but Thompson said she doesn't expect the clunky schedule to affect her ability to get up to speed for the remainder of the season, especially after she missed all of the 2017-18 World Cup season due to a knee injury, returning only for the Olympics in February.

"It's definitely been a long start to the season, especially after feeling so ready for the first races and then having to push it off and push it off," she said. "It's been a bit of a waiting game, but I think I've managed to stay focused and ready when the time did come and we actually did get to race.

"It'll be good to get two more races under my belt and then have the Christmas break."

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