The Canadian ski cross team had its strongest showing of the season so far at the World Cup at Blue Mountain in Ontario on Friday, with Chris Del Bosco finishing first and second in the men's race and Whistler's Marielle Thompson posting her first career victory on the women's side.
Thompson got the hole shot in every heat and held on. The only time her lead was in jeopardy was in the semi-final, but she pulled away after the first couple of features.
"I knew coming into today that I was skiing really well, and if I stayed patient and skied hard I would do well," she said. "It was pretty exciting coming over the last jump and hearing all the kids in the home crowd screaming."
Thompson, 19, has been on the podium twice so far this season, and she's readjusted her goals with every milestone. Originally her goal was to earn her first career podium, and she did that in the opening race of the season. Then her goal was to win a race, which she accomplished at Blue Mountain.
Now she's sitting second overall in the women's ski cross rankings with the leader, Sanna Luedi of Switzerland, who is currently nursing an injury after a crash at X Games. However, Thompson is trying not to focus on the overall title.
"I haven't really thought about it," she said. "I'm just going to keep trying to ski well and keep my health up, and keep doing what I've been doing and hope it does well in competition."
Thompson also came close to adding an X Games gold medal to her trophy case the previous weekend, and was in the lead when she lost control and crashed in a corner.
Thompson liked the course at Blue Mountain, which had a lot of big features and air, but said her biggest skill is in the gliding sections. "Once I get into a tuck I can take off, but this course is pretty good — there was a lot of air, and we're all well-trained for air time."
For Del Bosco, the win wasn't as easy as Thompson's. He had trouble with his starts and had to make several passes in the heats to make the finals, then in the finals to take the gold medal — his second consecutive come-from-behind win, including at the X Games.
"I don't know what it is," he said. "I'm just super comfortable skiing with other people. And you do kind of have your game plan. Ideally you do want the hole shot, it's a lot easier to get in front, put your head down and go.
"I was in the right place at the right time a few times today. I'm patient and where there's an opening I kind of make it happen.
"It's good — it's never over until you're across the finish line. I don't panic if I get out behind, and I'm definitely moving well in traffic and I've been working the last few races. But I'd like to get my start back a little more."
Leman was in the lead at one point in the final heat when Austria's Andreas Matt passed him. The two were battling it out when Del Bosco saw an opening on the last roller, and some contact secured the second position for Leman.
All five Canadian men made the top 16 at Blue Mountain. Thompson was the only senior member of the team competing with most of the team — including Whistler's Ashleigh McIvor and Julia Murray, and Kelowna-based world champion Kelsey Serwa — on the sidelines with knee injuries.
Leman is now ranked first in the men's ski cross standings with two gold medals and a bronze this season, while Del Bosco moved up to third.