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Whistler rookies off to strong World Cup start

Stan Rey and Marielle Thompson get the call-up and they impress

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There is always a turnover of athletes after an Olympic cycle, and this year was no exception.

But when veteran athletes retire, they open spots for up-and-coming athletes - many of whom have been competing a step down from the World Cup level and are ready to test themselves against the best.

From Whistler, there are four World Cup rookie skiers of note this year.

In ski cross, NorAm champions Stan Rey and Marielle Thompson got the call up, joining what is arguably the best team in the world.

In freestyle, a pair of skiers who started out with the Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Team and worked their way up, are now on the World Cup moguls circuit - Eddie Hicks, joining the men's team, and Chelsea Henitiuk, who will be skiing alongside Olympians Kristi Richards, Jennifer Heil and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe.

With only a few events to their credit, all four athletes have already earned FIS points, and three out of the four have cracked the top 10 in eighth place.

Take Chelsea Henitiuk. She has completed four competitions this year, placing 15th and 16th before placing eighth in China. Overall she now ranks 14th in the world.

Or Eddie Hicks. He was 13th in his first World Cup, dropped to 43rd in his second event, then moved up to eighth in event number three.

Ski cross racer Marielle Thompson has been in two World Cup events to date, placing 21st in her first race then moving up to eighth a day later on the same course.

The men's ski cross circuit is incredibly hard to break into, but after placing 48th in his first World Cup race Stan Rey moved up to 27th on day two - a top-30 result that placed him ahead of over 40 other racers in that competition.

To find out how things are going, Pique checked in with our World Cup rookies this week.

For Marielle Thompson, who was the NorAm champion last season, it's about hard work paying off.

"The work I've done leading up to the season in gym, and pre-season on-hill training, has definitely helped me get ready for World Cup season," she said. "Leading up to this season I've been working much more on my upper body than I had before this season and it showed in San Candido as my starts were much faster than they were last season and in the summer, but I still have a fair way to go. Last year at the NorAm Cup level it was pretty competitive amongst the girls, but this year after the hype of the Olympics and with the addition of another provincial ski cross program in Canada (in Alberta) there will most likely be a bigger field of girls."

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