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Olympic, World Cup ski cross champion Marielle Thompson just keeps racing

04/09/2014 05:08 EDT | Updated 06/09/2014 05:59 EDT
Many Canadian medallists from the Winter Olympics in Sochi are either marketing those medals or on vacation now.

Marielle Thompson is still racing.

The Olympic women's ski cross champion didn't put her skis away after adding the overall World Cup title to her trophy case less than three weeks ago.

Thompson won her second Nor Am race in as many days Wednesday at Sunshine Ski Resort west of Banff, Alta. She'll also race in the Canadian championships there Friday.

The 21-year-old from Whistler, B.C., certainly doesn't have anything left to prove this season, but she wanted to compete in the developmental Nor Am events as well as try for a third straight national title to help the country's next generation of ski crossers.

Thompson remembers what it felt like to be a teenager standing in the start gate at domestic races alongside Ashleigh McIvor, the 2010 Olympic champion, and veterans Julia Murray and Kelsey Serwa.

"This week is a really good opportunity for the younger girls," Thompson told The Canadian Press. "It's a good opportunity for me to come and give back.

"I know when I participated in national races when I was younger, I really looked up to Ashleigh and Julie and Kelsey and thought it was so cool I'd get to race them. I kind of hope I can have that sort of mentor role out here and they're just as excited to race me as I was the older girls.

"I hope that I'm approachable and I'm not a big, scary person. I don't think I am, but you never know. Maybe I an intimidating? Since I'm not that much older than them, they're not afraid to talk to me, for which I'm glad."

Ski cross made its Winter Olympic debut in 2010. Skiers race in groups of four down a course of rolls, bumps and turns. Crashes are common.

Thompson parlayed a powerful start into an early lead in the women's Olympic final Feb. 21 at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

With Serwa coming up behind her at the first turn, the two women communicated so Thompson wouldn't cut her off, thus ensuring a gold-silver finish for Canada.

Instead of returning to Canada for a round of media interviews and public appearances before her World Cup season resumed, Thompson spent a few quiet days visiting a friend in Switzerland.

Thompson secured her second career World Cup title in a more dramatic fashion than her Olympic gold medal. Only five points separated Thompson from Switzerland's Fanny Smith heading into the World Cup finale.

The women went head-to-head for the title in La Plagne, France. Thompson was running second when she slipped past Smith on the second-last turn to claim the crown.

An Olympic gold medal gets the public's attention. The athletes often say an overall World Cup title is the better indicator of who is the best in the world, however. That requires adapting to different courses and winning, or at least standing on the podium, week after week.

"Honestly, I know the Olympic gold medal is a really big deal, but I worked way harder to get the Crystal Globe," Thompson said.

"The Olympics is one race in four years and we have so many more races. I think I haven't been out of the top five since midway through last season. I think the Crystal Globe really shows the hard work and dedication of all the racers to get that.

"In a sport like ski cross, it's really hard to be consistent like that so I'm really glad all the hard work I did in the summer and in the fall paid off, making my starts so fast that I could get out in front of people."

When Thompson finally returned to Whistler on March 26, she didn't put her feet up. There were media interviews in Vancouver, a friend's wedding in Canmore, Alta., and she helped out with the national alpine ski championships in her hometown before heading to Sunshine this week.

"I'm tired, but I can still race," Thompson said. "People are saying 'is it nice to be off snow?' I haven't really been off snow. I'm not very good at doing nothing."

Olympian Georgia Simmerling of West Vancouver, B.C., will join Thompson in the national championship field Friday. Serwa helped organizers run the Nor Am races, but didn't compete.

Calgary's Brady Leman, who finished fourth in the men's final in Sochi, also raced the Nor Ams and will compete in the men's national championship Friday.

Born and raised in Whistler, Thompson both skied and figure skated until the age of 17 when she decided her body type was more suited to rocketing down a mountain than performing triple toe loops.

She doesn't have an agent, but Thompson intends to seek the advice of McIvor about managing the legacy of an Olympic gold medal.

"I haven't really got a chance to talk to her yet, but I will definitely do that," Thompson said.

"She has so much experience, not just as a high-level ski cross athlete, but as the Olympic gold medallist, she really does a good job with that. I know she does a good job with her public speaking. I think I can really learn from her."

After the Canadian championship, Thompson might actually do nothing for awhile before she goes back to the gym and the slopes.

"I think I'd like to go to the beach," she said. "I'm pretty good at laying on the beach and doing nothing, but when I'm at home in Whistler and there's fresh snow, I can't just sit there. I have to go out and ski it."

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