Genting Snow Park de Zhangjiakou , China (February 18, 2022) – The women’s Olympic ski cross race was action-packed from start to finish with Canada putting its four skiers in the top 7 and Marielle Thompson from Whistler, BC, earning silver.
In the highly anticipated final, Thompson, 29 years old, skied alongside the tour’s most dominant skiers: Sandra Naeslund of Sweden, Fanny Smith of Switzerland and Daniela Maier of Germany.
Poised to earn a second Olympic medal following her gold at Sochi, Thompson found herself at the back of the pack after a challenging start in the final heat. For much of the run, she patiently waited behind the three skiers hoping to find the right time to make a move. As she gained speed over some of the last rolls, Thompson was able sneak passed Smith and Maier who had some contacts, moving into second place behind Naeslund who remained in a league of her own throughout the entire run, comfortably skiing to gold.
“I brought my best possible skiing here at the Olympics,” tells Thompson. “I couldn’t ask for more than that.”
Thompson, who is one of the most decorated skiers in the history of ski cross racing, suffered a season-ending knee injury requiring reconstructive surgery in March 2021. In preparing for these Olympics, she made a speedy recovery and entered the 2021-22 season with key milestones including her 25th career World Cup victory in Arosa, Switzerland in December and her 50th career World Cup podium in mid-January at Nakiska, Alberta.
“When I won my first medal at Sochi, I hadn’t been through many injuries up to that point in my career,” she explains. “So, this medal, having gone through a few knee injuries in recent years, is very special and a validation that all my hard work paid off,” adds the skier who comes from an illustrious ski family with brother Broderick, also a member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team and having competed in the downhill, super g and alpine combined events at these Games.
Ski cross made its Olympic debut at the 2010 Olympics. Since then, Canadian women have won half of all Olympic medals in the discipline. In 2010, Ashleigh McIvor won gold, in 2014 Marielle Thompson won gold and Kelsey Serwa took silver, and in 2018, Kelsey Serwa won gold alongside Britt Phelan who won silver.
Phelan, 30 years old from Mont-Tremblant, QC, was particularly determined to repeat her medal performance from 2018. Skiing two solid first heats, she got in tangled with run-leader Fanny Smith right before the finish line in the semi-final, creating an opening for Germany’s Daniella Maier to move ahead. The three racers battled to qualify for the final in a photo finish, but Phelan ended up in third which bumped her to the small final. Putting her disappointment aside, Phelan raced back to the start for her final run, winning that race and ending up 5th overall.
Phelan, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 2019-20 season, missed all of 2020-21, and made an impressive World Cup return in November 2021.
Courtney Hoffos, 24 years old from Windermere, BC, finished 6th overall, right behind teammate Phelan. Hoffos won her first heat and then came second in the quarter final behind the unbeatable Naeslund. She didn’t make the cut in the semi-final, leaving her to contend in the small final. Skiing alongside Phelan, fellow Canadian Hannah Schmidt and Australia’s Sami Kennedy-Sim, Hoffos put down a strong small final run, coming in 2nd place in that heat.
“It was so much fun today,” tells the first-time Olympian who came in 5th at the 2021 World Championships in Are, SWE. “This is some of the most fun racing I’ve done all season, it was cool that I got to do a lot of heats with my teammates. It can be bittersweet when one person moves up and one doesn’t but overall it was an unreal day,” she adds.
Hannah Schmidt, 27 years old from Ottawa, ON, rounded out Canada’s stellar day with a 7th place finish overall. The first-time Olympians who joined the national ski cross team in 2018 and competed in her first FIS World Cup at Blue Mountain in 2019, made a bold move in her first heat to go from 3rd to 1st and then came in 2nd behind Thompson in the second heat. In the quarter-final, she didn’t make the cut, having to settle for the small final where she was the third skier to cross the finish line.
“My Olympic experience was unbelievable,” admits Schmidt who was 10th at the 2021 World Championships. “I didn’t think I would be here today since my goal was actually to compete in the 2026 Games. But my progression has been good and I’ve had lots of confidence in myself and in my training lately. It’s truly an honor to be here representing Canada and skiing against the best,” adds the skier whose brother, Jared, is also competing at these Games in ski cross.
“No doubt having family travelling with you is an awesome experience,” she says. “We work together and support each other,” concludes Schmidt whose cousin, Madeline Schmidt, competed in sprint kayak for Canada at Tokyo 2020.
Ski cross action at the Games continues tomorrow with the men’s event. Canada will be represented by Kevin Drury (Toronto, ON), Brady Leman (Calgary, AB), Reece Howden (Cultus Lake, B.C.) and Jared Schmidt (Ottawa, ON).
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Alpine Canada is the governing body for alpine, para-alpine, and ski cross racing in Canada, as well as for Canadian ski coaches, providing education, certification, insurance, and compliance with the coaching code of conduct. With the support of valued corporate partners and donors, along with the Government of Canada, Own the Podium, the Canadian Olympic Committee, and the Coaching Association of Canada, Alpine Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic, World Championship, and World Cup athletes to stimulate visibility, inspiration, and growth in the ski community. In 2020/21, Alpine Canada celebrated 100 years of rich tradition in competitive skiing in Canada.