Whistler ski-crosser Thompson feeling strong for 2019-20 

2014 Olympic champ looks to build off last season's comeback

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVE HOLLAND/COURTESY OF THE CANADIAN OLYMPIC COMMITTEE - COMING FOR THE CRYSTAL Marielle Thompson will look to claim her fourth FIS Crystal Globe during ski-cross action this year.
  • Photo by Dave Holland/Courtesy of the Canadian Olympic Committee
  • COMING FOR THE CRYSTAL Marielle Thompson will look to claim her fourth FIS Crystal Globe during ski-cross action this year.

Marielle Thompson has battled back from some fairly significant injuries in recent years, but heading into 2019-20, the Whistler ski-cross racer is feeling strong.

Thompson suffered an injured meniscus in 2015 and then a torn ACL and MCL just months before the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, which she miraculously recovered from in time to compete in the event.

Entering last season, Thompson didn't know what exactly to expect, with the single Olympic race as her only competition in the 2017-18 campaign.

"Last year, I didn't really know where I would stack up coming into the season having been gone for basically a year. [Now] I feel normal again, and as prepared as I could possibly be, coming into this one," she said. "I'm definitely stronger in most ways, which is good."

Despite that initial uncertainty, Thompson finished the year in third in the Crystal Globe standings, won the World Championship, and was named Female Athlete of the Year for Winter Sport Performance at the Canadian Sport Awards in September.

"Last season was awesome. I was pretty much in every World Cup final. I didn't really know what to expect, but I think I exceeded expectations personally and, I'm sure, other people's expectations as well," she said. "I made mistakes, just having not raced in awhile, so I think I'd like to clean it up a little bit and make sure I'm staying focused every run, the entire run.

"Podiums are amazing and World Cup finals are great, but I like being on top."

Despite having collected every major title in the sport's upper echelon, Thompson is still pushing herself to always improve.

"It's a lot of strength and power work. I think I can always improve that. I've definitely been strong in the past, but it's showing that I've continued to build as I've gotten older. I'm trying to get that extra little per cent in everything across the board," she said. "I feel that makes me well-rounded."

On snow, she said she's working on her giant slalom skiing to round out that area of her approach.

"That's not my strongest suit, so I'm just trying to close the gap where I'm lacking a little bit," she said.

For the season opener on Dec. 5 through 7, Thompson is eager to go back to Val Thorens, which was cancelled last year because of a lack of snow.

"That's always a fun stop and I've had lots of good racing there, so I'm looking forward to that," said Thompson, adding that she's also keen to race the Canadian event at Nakiska, Alta. on Jan. 17 and 18.

With three of every four years built around either the Winter Olympic Games or the FIS World Championships, Thompson said she feels a little relief it's an off year with neither on tap for 2019-20.

"It's nice having a World Cup season without that big, pinnacle event. Last season, it felt like everything was building up to World Championships, so it's nice to not have that extra pressure," she said.

The ski-cross team is entering the season with heavy hearts after the death of up-and-comer Mikayla Martin in a mountain biking accident in Squamish last month.

Thompson credited Martin's family for giving the team the go-ahead to get back on snow and try to regain a sense of normalcy.

"Mikayla's parents really encouraged everyone to go to our last camp, despite it being so close to her passing. I think that was good, especially for the younger athletes who were quite close [with her]. They were able to get back into it," Thompson said.

It's not the first brush with tragedy for Thompson and some of the veteran ski-crossers, who lost Nik Zoricic after a severe on-course crash in Switzerland in 2012.

Those who were there are trying to help the younger athletes cope with Martin's sudden and shocking passing.

"We're focusing on our skiing, but we're honouring a great athlete as well. We'll be thinking about her," Thompson said.

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