Teddy Katz (Contributor)
Ben Thomsen’s improbable rise from a small town to World Cup is like a Hollywood movie with more twists and turns than a downhill course.
Thomsen says it’s been an “absolutely wild” ride the past 10 years since making his World Cup debut in Kvitfjell, NOR in March 2010.
The 2018-2019 season was one of his best. Thomsen had three top 10 downhill results including an impressive sixth place in Kitzbuhel and later a seventh place finish at the World Championship in Are, SWE.
Looking back, he feels fortunate to be where he is today especially when he thinks about how it all began.
“You can’t really make this stuff up. It’s so absurd some of the hurdles and challenges I’ve faced.”
At 19, Thomsen was one of the top juniors in the world. But at 20, he was released from the BC Provincial Team.
He says his family had concerns about him continuing to fight for a spot on the National Team, something that seemed against all odds then. He worked in landscaping and construction and didn’t have any money in the bank.
At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, he participated as a forerunner and convinced Alpine Canada to let him compete in one of the season-ending World Cups in March 2010.
He showed enough promise to make the team the following year and had a breakthrough 16th place finish in the downhill at Val Gardena and hasn’t looked back since.
In February 2012, when the World Cup went to Sochi for the Olympic test event, Thomsen turned heads by finishing 2nd in the downhill. He had three other top-10 World Cup downhill results that season and ended the year ranked 15th in the world.
“I went from absolutely nothing, living in the industrial park in Invermere collecting cans to make ends meet, and two years later I’m standing on a podium in a World Cup – in an Olympic test event – It’s like some wild dream.”
With the podium result, he also was officially anointed a member of the talented group of Canadian skiers, nicknamed the Canadian Cowboys, who were fighting for medals week in and week out.
Brodie Seger, now one of Thomsen’s young teammates, remembers as a kid wanting to be like just like Thomsen and the other Canadian Cowboys.
“I had posters and pictures of them standing in a row with their cowboy boots with the big Canadian Cowboys belt buckles – and the hats on – they were just like superstars.” Seger adds, “It wasn’t just the way they were skiing and crushing it on the hill, they had the cowboy swagger too.”
But the roller coaster ride for Thomsen didn’t end because he was a part of one of Canada’s most prolific ski teams.
Every time things seemed to be going well, he’d suddenly find himself with a new challenge.
That included a string of injuries that kept him from reaching his potential on the World Cup circuit.
“I’m happy to say that for the last two years after recovering from knee surgery, things were going really well.”
His teammate Brodie Seger says Thomsen’s ability to fight through adversity is an important lesson for young skiers.
“I think it’s a story of incredible determination and belief in himself because it seems like at every step of the way he’s had doubters and multiple people telling him straight up to quit.”
In the early years when people didn’t think he could make it, the doubters fueled Thomsen to prove otherwise. Now he’s taken on the role of team leader, something that he loves.
“Overnight it felt like I went from the guy who was fighting to be part of the team to all of a sudden the one guy everybody was looking at.”
If his body cooperates and the results are still there, he’d like to compete in a couple more Olympics.
He’s motivated by one of his former Canadian Cowboy teammates, Jan Hudec, who battled serious injuries yet authored his own remarkable comeback story, winning an Olympic bronze medal in 2014 in the Super-G.
“When I look at a guy who’s dealing with that much stuff and is that injured, and he can make that happen, absolutely it’s very inspiring.” He adds, “If he can do it, so can I.
And as Thomsen gets ready to compete in another World Cup in Kvitfjell this weekend he’ll have ten years of experience behind him pushing him towards success.