Thompson still on top after fifth-place finish 

Whistler product leads Canadian ski cross team during World Cup in France

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MALCOLM CARMICHAEL / COURTESY OF ALPINE CANADA - Follow the Leader Whistler's Marielle Thompson retained her lead in the World Cup ski cross standings with a fifth-place finish in France on Dec. 15.
  • Photo by Malcolm Carmichael / Courtesy of Alpine Canada
  • Follow the Leader Whistler's Marielle Thompson retained her lead in the World Cup ski cross standings with a fifth-place finish in France on Dec. 15.

Whistler's Marielle Thompson won the small final at Val Thorens, France on Sunday, Dec. 15 to retain the lead in the women's World Cup ski cross standings and provide Canada's best finish for the second week in a row.

Thompson and all three of her Canadian teammates qualified for the women's heats, but the 2012 Crystal Globe winner was the only one to make it past the quarter-final round. Thompson finished third in her semifinal before winning Sunday's small final to place fifth.

The 21-year-old, who won the season-opener at Nakiska, Alta., while dealing with an illness, said she was feeling "much better" at Val Thorens in an email to Pique, and added that she was pleased with her skiing again this week. Norway's Marte Gjefsen just barely squeaked past Thompson for second place in the semifinal, with an arm's length being the difference between the Whistler skier being relegated to the small final or racing for her second win in as many weeks.

"I don't think I made any mistakes and it was a very competitive semi," said Thompson. "I worked hard to stay in front, but it was challenging on the course in Val Thorens since there were lots of straight sections for the other racers to catch the draft and accelerate past."

Thompson qualified for race heats in 10th place and, other than the semifinal, won each of her rounds on Sunday en route to the fifth-place finish. The 2012 Crystal Globe champ has won seven of eight heats in total this season, and said that strong starts have been a factor in her head-to-head success.

"I could ski the wu-tang start pretty well when many other racers were having trouble nailing it," Thompson said of the French course. "When I got the hole shot I just did my best to be on a tight line throughout each run and did my best to stay in front."

Rounding out the other Canadian results, Georgia Simmerling finished 10th, Kelsey Serwa placed 15th and Danielle Sundquist wound up in 19th place. The start gate appeared to malfunction during Serwa's quarter-final heat and the Canadian team lodged an official complaint, but the results were not changed.

Katrin Mueller and Sanna Luedi made it a one-two finish for Switzerland and France's Ophelie David placed third.

"It was disappointing we didn't have a podium because we set the bar pretty high, but Marielle was able to keep the overall lead," said Canadian coach Willy Raine in a release. "To come away with the results we had, with the girls competing together in the bottom bracket, it was a pretty good day."

After taking the win last week in Alberta, Thompson now leads David by 25 points in the World Cup standings.

Difficult conditions at Val Thorens made it tough on the Canadian men's team during Saturday qualification, as none were able to ski into the top 32 advancing to Sunday's race heats. Chris Del Bosco (50th) and Whistler's Dave Duncan (52nd) were the closest to qualifying on Saturday.

Austria's Andreas Matt picked up the win Sunday, joined on the podium by Sweden's Victor Oehling Norberg and France's Jean Frederic Chapuis.

The World Cup ski cross tour continues next weekend with a back-to-back race at Innichen/San Candido, Italy, the final events on the calendar in 2013.

"I'm looking forward to arriving in San Candido and seeing what the course looks like," said Thompson, who earned the first World Cup podium of her career at the venue in December 2011. "They have a different builder this year so it could be very different from past years.

"I'm just going to try to keep this momentum going and do my best."

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