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Thompson feeling strong to start season

Local ski-cross racer doubles up in Austria

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The 2017-18 season didn't go the way Marielle Thompson envisioned.

An early-season knee injury put her Olympic participation in jeopardy, and while she found herself well enough to compete in PyeongChang, South Korea, her gold-medal defence ended after a crash in her first heat.

But after a summer to rebound, the 26-year-old is looking to return to her dominant self on the FIS World Cup tour. In her first taste of action since the Games, Thompson ran roughshod over a field sprinkled with World Cup regulars in Pitztal, Austria on the weekend, winning the Austrian National Championships race on Nov. 24 and a Europa Cup event on Nov. 25.

"It was an awesome start to the season, especially having not really raced other than that one heat at the Olympics. It was really good to start off on such a strong foot," Thompson said. "It was a tough competition as well, there were some really good skiers ... There were lots of World Cup athletes. In the men's field on the Austrian nationals day, it was really hard to qualify because there were so many high-quality and fast racers."

Aside from tests associated with the field, Thompson was also challenged by Pitztal's altitude, which left athletes feeling winded. The course was up around 2,800 metres on the Tyrol region's highest glacier.

"It was up high on a glacier at elevation, so it was a lot of hard work," she said. "When you get to the bottom of the course, you're definitely out of breath from working hard and trying to get the most out of every feature."

Thompson added that the courses themselves weren't particularly big, but the features they presented allowed her to test her mettle.

"This time of year, it's challenging to build big courses, especially when the winter hasn't been super great," she said, "but it was good for training. There weren't super big features, but there were a lot of rollers to work (on) throughout the course."

The World Cup campaign will get off to a little later start than initially planned, as FIS cancelled the season-opening races in Val Thorens, France on Dec. 7 and 8, because of low-snow conditions, bumping the kickoff to Arosa, Switzerland on Dec. 11.

With confirmation that she can be a contender once again, Thompson is eager to line up against a full complement of the world's best.

"All the training I've done really paid off because everyone was really going for it. I felt pretty on my game. I'm just looking forward to getting back to the World Cup so I can get on a big course and get back to doing what I love most," she said. "It was a good feeling to compare myself early and know that I'm on a good track and skiing fast.

"It'll be a good confidence boost going into the first World Cup."

Fellow Whistler Mountain Ski Club alum Mikayla Martin took 15th and 11th, respectively, on the weekend.

Full results are available online at www.fis-ski.com.

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