NAKISKA, Alta. - Olympic champion Marielle Thompson accomplished her mission of defending her skicross World Cup title at Nakiska Ski Area on Saturday.
"I set a pretty high goal coming back out to Nakiska, ideally winning again and I managed to do that, so I'm really happy to start off the season on such a good foot," said Thompson, who won her second career Crystal Globe as overall World Cup champion last season.
The Whistler, B.C., native led the final from start to finish, while her Canadian teammate Georgia Simmerling of North Vancouver, B.C., made a big push to pass Switzerland's Fanny Smith to take second spot. The two Canadians also finished first and second in qualification on Friday.
"Georgia's been skiing really well, so it's good that she could showcase that here today," Thompson said. "To finish 1-2 for Canada at home in Canada is really awesome."
Simmerling said that all the training that she and Thompson did paid off at the season-opening event.
"We're pushing each other," she said. "There's only two girls on the team. We didn't really know the rest of the competition, what they were doing all summer. We came into training confident, skiing fast and we ended up 1-2."
Smith ended up in third, while Sweden's Sandra Naeslund and Anna Holmlund rounded out the top five.
In the men's skicross final, Austria's Thomas Zangerl edged out Sweden's Victor Oehling Norberg to win his second World Cup title.
"I had always problems in the summer with my back," said Zangerl, while noting he was able to train without incident in the off-season. "Now it was the first summer without back pain in training. This is maybe the result of the training."
Switzerland's Armin Niederer placed third, while France's Jonas Devouassoux finished just off the podium in fourth.
Dave Duncan of London, Ont., was the top Canadian in the men's competition as he won the small final to finish fifth overall.
"Coming out here today, if someone would have told me I was going to come fifth, I would have bet against myself," said Duncan. "I found a way — crafty vet, I guess."
Duncan added that he did what he could to qualify for the final, but came up just a bit short.
"I skied my heart out to try and make it happen (and) give the fans another podium here," he said. "The girls held it down today and crushed it for us. As usual, they're picking it up for the men."
Calgary's Brady Leman, who finished third at Nakiska last year, was disappointed with his eighth-place showing.
"I really wanted to be on the podium today," Leman said. "I ran out of gas, I guess. Something went wrong. I didn't have very good starts the last two rounds and was trying my best to battle from the back, but it was tight racing."