Marielle Thompson will get to do a victory lap, of sorts, on home soil.
The 24-year-old Whistlerite clinched her third FIS Crystal Globe for ski-cross with a victory at Sunny Valley, Russia on Feb. 25 in which she bested Swedish challenger Sandra Naeslund and France's Ophelie David.
Thompson was excited to get the title secured before the season officially concluded, especially coming home to Canada to race at Ontario's Blue Mountain this weekend.
"It was really great. That was one of the big goals that I had set out for myself at the start of the season," she said. "To be able to have the title before this last race is even better. It's just a big weight off my shoulders for this race at Blue Mountain. I can race without that extra pressure, which is nice."
In the overall chase, Naeslund was Thompson's nearest competitor, but with the Canadian now holding 865 points to the Swede's 710, her lead became insurmountable.
The victory at Sunny Valley was Thompson's sixth of the season and 19th of her career. Blue Mountain has positive memories associated with it for Thompson, as it was the site of her first World Cup victory in 2012.
"It seems like so long ago now, but I'm looking forward to continuing here again. The crowd was really encouraging to us last time, so hopefully, it can be even bigger and better," she said. "My mom and my dad and my sister are coming out from Whistler, so I'm looking forward to having them cheer when I'm competing. It's going to be cool because they haven't had that chance very often."
Speaking on Tuesday morning (Feb. 28), Thompson noted that much of the course for this Saturday's finals wasn't yet completed. Still, she expects to see a fun end product when it's all ready to go.
"I saw a picture of the start section and it looks really fun with lots of technical features," she said. "I think that'll be good for me and the course drawing looks really great... The builders are really great and they do great work, so I'm sure it'll be lots of fun."
This weekend's race will also be televised on CBC beginning at 7:30 a.m. Pacific time.
Thompson will receive her third Crystal Globe as part of this weekend's events. When reflecting on her career to this point and on her 2011-12 and 2013-14 wins, Thompson said she couldn't place one above the other.
"It's equal to the other two. It's definitely different because I was more of a force on the World Cup circuit this year right from the get-go," she said. "They're all excellent in different ways. The first one was me proving myself and proving to myself that I could be on top and the second one was the culmination of a great season with the Olympics there. I'd say they're equally awesome."
Thompson, whose Crystal Globe challenges have been undermined by injuries in recent years, feared history was again repeating itself after a crash during the first heats in Germany.
"In Feldberg, I had a pretty bad crash and injured my shoulder, which was frustrating, especially not knowing the severity of it. But our physio and the massage team has done a really great job getting me taped up and back to where I needed to be, which was racing the following week (in Idre Fjall, Sweden, where she took fifth and first in two races)," she said. "That was probably the biggest challenge this season, especially not knowing if I could even finish the season."
While the injury turned out to be relatively minor, it's still lingering here and there, though not quite as much on course, Thompson explained.
"When I was racing, I didn't think about it too much," she said. "It wasn't really an issue, but if I jumped awkwardly, it bumped it and I would feel a little twinge. When I'm racing, it doesn't bother me. It's during my pre-race workouts when it's a little bit weaker and just gets sore."
Heading into this weekend's races, Thompson also holds the lead for the overall freestyle title, holding 72.08 points to hold the lead on a pair of aerialists — Australia's Danielle Scott (67.00) and China's Mengtao Xu (66.67 points).
At Sunny Valley, Thompson's fellow Canadian Brittany Phelan took sixth. On the men's side, Kevin Drury was the top Canuck in sixth while Ned Ireland (16th), Chris Del Bosco (17th), Brady Leman (26th), Mathieu Leduc (37th) and Ian Deans (39th) also competed.