Marielle Thompson and Dave Duncan had identical results when the World Cup ski cross season resumed last week, and the two Whistler skiers are now facing nearly identical situations as the campaign winds down.
Thompson and Duncan both qualified first and placed fifth in the race held at Arosa, Switzerland, on Friday, March 7. Thompson continues to lead the women's standings, while Duncan moved back atop the men's rankings with three races to go.
In her first race since winning Olympic gold in Sochi, Thompson won her first two heats before getting tangled up in the semifinals. The 21-year-old rebounded by cruising to a small final victory.
"In the semis I didn't have my best start and I had to step in behind and stepped on one or two people's skis," said Thompson. "I did kind of a 360. I got going again but I was already too far behind.
"Now that the Olympics are over, I'm focusing on being consistent and hopefully I can end the season strong and get the (overall title)," added Thompson, who won Canada's first individual ski cross Crystal Globe in 2012. She sits 75 points clear of Swiss skier Fanny Smith in the standings.
Danielle Sundquist was the only other Canadian racing, and she placed 13th. Olympic silver medallist Kelsey Serwa is taking the rest of the season off.
Duncan similarly had a semifinal mishap keep him from making it to the men's big final, crashing out hard before returning to win the small final. His fifth-place finish was best among the World Cup leaders and put him back at No. 1 in the season rankings, though Swiss skier Alex Fiva won at Arosa for his second consecutive win and put himself back in the chase, sitting fourth. The spread between Duncan and Fiva is just 18 points, and Austria's Andreas Matt and Sweden's Victor Oehling Norberg sit between them.
"It's been a see-saw battle all year. I'm happy to have the red bib back," said Duncan. "Everything is so tight and there are 300 points up for grabs still.
"It would be incredible to take home an overall title. It would make it a lot easier to forget the Olympics," he joked, having been knocked out in the first round in Sochi.
It was a solid day for the Canadians overall, as Chris Del Bosco finished fourth and Brady Leman wound up sixth.
The World Cup schedule resumes with a double race at Are, Sweden, on March 15 and 16.
SHARPE SIXTH AT U.S. OPEN
Whistler rider Darcy Sharpe had another tremendous outing at the Burton U.S. Open, finishing sixth in the men's slopestyle final while putting himself among some elite company.
Sharpe held the lead after the first of three runs on Friday, March 7 in Vail, Colo., earning a score of 78.05 on a run that included impressive rail work and two double-cork 1080s. The Comox native didn't improve his score on the next two runs but pocketed $1,500 for the sixth-place result.
The five riders ahead of Sharpe were no slouches — each of them were Olympic finalists last month. Mark McMorris and Staale Sandbech, the bronze and silver medallists in Sochi, respectively, finished one-two in Vail. Maxence Parrot finished third, Sebastien Toutant was fourth and Finland's Roope Tonteri placed fifth.
It's the second year in a row where Sharpe has turned heads at the U.S. Open. Last year, he placed 10th in the men's final and took home the honour of Rookie of the Year.
Attempts to contact Sharpe for comment were unsuccessful.
Whistler's Maëlle Ricker did not compete at Veysonnaz, Switzerland, this week when the women's snowboard cross World Cup tour resumed. With a season title out of reach and her broken wrist still healing, it appears the 2010 Olympic champ will sit out the remainder of the campaign.
Sochi silver medallist and Canadian rider Dominique Maltais won the event to clinch her fourth-straight Crystal Globe. Whistler's Carle Brenneman finished 17th.