NEWS
01/22/2018 13:41 EST | Updated 01/23/2018 00:21 EST

Thompson hopes knee will be ready to defend Olympic ski cross title

CALGARY — Marielle Thompson has time and the Olympic schedule on her side as she attempts to come back from a major knee injury and defend her women's ski cross gold medal.

The 25-year-old from Whistler, B.C., was among the eight athletes _ four men and four women _ named to Canada's Olympic ski cross team Monday at Canada's Sports Hall of Fame.

Thompson ruptured her ACL and MCL in an October training crash and has yet to race this season.

Women's ski cross is scheduled for Feb. 23, which is two days before the closing ceremonies in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"We have a good amount of time," Thompson said Monday. "We have a really good plan set.

"I'm taking it one day at a time."

Sunday was her first day back on snow skiing lightly with a knee brace at nearby Nakiska Ski Resort. She planned to return to Nakiska on Tuesday to test her knee again.

"We have a very strict return-to-snow protocol," she said. "I'm going through all that step by step, day by day, making sure my knee is in a good place.

"I'm very happy where I'm at in my recovery process."

Canada will send a full ski cross contingent to a Winter Games for the first time after seven athletes competed in 2010 and six in 2014.

Canadian women won both gold, as well as a silver medal, since ski cross made its Olympic debut in 2010.

Ashleigh McIvor Demerit, the 2010 champion, introduced the 2018 squad of Thompson, 2014 silver medallist Kelsey Serwa of Kelowna, B.C., Brittany Phelan of Mont-Tremblant, Que., India Sherret of Cranbrook, B.C., Calgary's Brady Leman, Montreal's Chris De Bosco, Toronto's Kevin Drury and Dave Duncan of London, Ont.

Del Bosco was fourth in the 2010 men's race and Leman was also fourth in 2014.

"You can't beat the experience our team has," said coach Stanley Hayer of Kimberley, B.C. "A couple fourths which were heartbreaking for sure and then the golds and silver, which are an amazing high.

"It's time for the guys to step up to the plate for this race and the girls to hold their ground. Our women's team is amazingly strong. If we can throw a Marielle in there, our team goes to another level."

The strength was dented Saturday, however, when Vancouver's Georgia Simmerling broke bones in both legs at a World Cup in Nakiska.

With Thompson sidelined, Simmerling was Canada's top-ranked female sitting fourth overall in the World Cup standings.

"We're super devastated about losing Georgia at the Nakiska race," Serwa said. "We're sending out best to Georgia.

"We're going to miss her at the Games, but she's still part of our dream team and we love her."

Thompson has been the dominant woman in ski cross capturing her third World Cup crystal globe as the overall champion last year.

Barring setbacks, Thompson will make a Games-time decision whether to race. She had four-and-a-half weeks from Monday's announcement to determine her race fitness.

"There's no real reason to push it until we need to," Hayer said. "She's proven she can win. She's proven she's the best women's ski crosser in the world. It's making sure she's confident in what her body can do come race day.

"With her experience, muscle memory, the imagery she's using now, it's not impossible at all. She's not scared of any track, she's not scared of any feature. If she can get a couple days of training, she's probably close to full speed if she's confident."