Whistler’s Marielle Thompson is used to standing on World Cup podiums.
Despite all the strangeness that defined 2020, the Olympic champion ski cross racer closed out the year in that familiar territory after charging her way to third place in Val Thorens, France on Dec. 21. It marked her third World Cup podium in as many races, and her 44th career podium.
“Today I tried to be a bit faster on my starts, still ended up having to make a few moves and some pretty good passing. I’m really happy with how I skied today and I’m really excited for a break,” said Thompson in a release.
She similarly finished third the previous day (two World Cups were scheduled for Val Thorens), after earning second place at a World Cup race in Arosa, Switzerland on Dec. 16, and beginning her season with a 25th-place finish in Arosa one day earlier.
Thompson wasn’t the only Canadian to land on the podium in France over the weekend, with Cultus Lake, B.C.’s Reece Howden taking first place in the men’s race the same day. The victory—Howden’s third-ever World Cup podium—was extra-sweet for the 22-year-old ski cross racer, as it came just one day after the second podium of his career.
Howden won his first-ever World Cup race on home snow in Nakiska, Alta. in January of this year, effectively bookending 2020 with first-place finishes. He now finds himself heading into 2021 as the leader of the Ski Cross World Cup tour.
The event didn’t end so positively for 2020 Crystal Globe winner Kevin Drury.
The reigning World Cup overall champ went down early in the day on Dec. 20, suffering a leg injury.
“Not the way I wanted to come home for Christmas, but that’s the risk of our sport,” Drury posted to Instagram on Tuesday, Dec. 22, underneath footage of the crash and an X-ray shot of what appears to be a fractured fibula. “Super unlucky crash but VERY glad it wasn’t more serious.”
He added, “I’ll be back though!”
Drury’s Canada ski cross teammates are scheduled to return to the World Cup start gate on Jan. 15, 2021, in Montafon, Austria.
WMSC alums out after crashing in Val d’Isère World Cup
Unfortunately, Drury won’t be the only Canadian skier who will be spending the Christmas holidays recovering. Two members of the men’s alpine team had an unfortunate start when they kicked off their 2020/21 World Cup season in Val d’Isère, France on Dec. 13.
Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC) alum Cameron Alexander was taken off course by sled after suffering what looked to be a painful leg injury during a crash in the men’s downhill event. Alexander was poised for a strong start to the ski season, after posting his first top-10 World Cup result at his last race in Norway, in March of this year.
His fellow WMSC veteran and North Vancouverite Brodie Seger similarly ended up on the DNF list in the downhill, after taking a spill just before the final gate.
“I thought the hay was in the barn yesterday until that little snow snake came out of nowhere and got me right before the line,” Seger posted to Instagram following the race. “Pretty hard to wrap my head around how that happened, especially after reeling in some time on the bottom section. However, I’m feeling pretty lucky to be walking away from that with nothing but a shoulder injury.
“I’m still in the process of assessing the injury, but unfortunately it looks like I will have to take some time away from racing,” he continued. “It’s the first time I will have to step away and rehab in the middle of the season, but I’m feeling determined to get to work. I’m very thankful for the team I have around me and can’t wait to watch the [Alpine Canada men’s team] crush it in the next races.”
Though a spokesperson from Alpine Canada was able to confirm all three athletes—Drury, Alexander and Seger—had returned to Canada, where they are receiving further care and support for their injuries, the spokesperson was not able to provide any further information on specific injuries or when the athletes anticipate being able to return to racing.
On a more positive note, Whistler’s Broderick Thompson made his return to World Cup racing on Dec. 13 after two seasons away from the circuit. He suffered a dislocated knee, torn ACL, MCL, LCL, and a completely ruptured patella tendon during a crash while training at Nakiska in 2018. The injuries kept him off snow for more than a year.
“It’s great to push out of the gate again on the World Cup, it’s definitely a big milestone in my comeback, but there is a lot more to come,” he said in an Alpine Canada Facebook post. Thompson finished 45th in his first race of the 2020/21 World Cup season.
Registration for Whistler Half delayed until February
If you were planning to spend New Year’s Day registering for the 2021 Whistler Half Marathon, you can breathe a sigh of relief, turn off that alarm and spend the first morning of the year sleeping a little longer than usual.
Registration for the event has been delayed from its usual start date of Jan. 1 to Feb. 15, 20201.
“As the state of the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to change by the day, we are proceeding, with caution, to find ways of delivering a 2021 adapted version of the Whistler Half Marathon, presented by Smartwool,” event organizers wrote in an update issued Dec. 21.
That said, organizers, “anticipate the format of the event will look very different than it has in the past.” However, organizers said they “are hopeful to hold races in all distances we have hosted in the past,” and are working closely with both local government and the Vancouver Coastal health authority as the planning progresses.
More information should be available for potential Half Marathon racers in the coming weeks, organizers added.
The Whistler Half’s 2020 race, initially set to take place in June, was cancelled in March as a precaution related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, organizers offered a virtual version of the event in June that drew nearly 500 participants across all the offered distances.
- With files from Dan Falloon