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Gold in them thar hills

Skicross win puts Canada's Thompson in Sochi Games

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Canada's Marielle Thompson has sewn up a spot on the Sochi squad with Friday's win.

ALESSANDRO TROVATI / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Canada's Marielle Thompson has sewn up a spot on the Sochi squad with Friday's win.

VAL THORENS, France -- Canada's Marielle Thompson can rest easy knowing that she has locked up a spot for Sochi.

Teammates Kelsey Serwa, Dave Duncan and Brady Leman are virtual locks to join her. As for the rest of the Canadians on the deep national skicross team, they have a long, anxious weekend of waiting ahead of them.

The Olympic qualification window for skicross closes Sunday, so Friday's race served as the last chance for Canadians to qualify for nomination. The 26-athlete freestyle team roster for the Winter Games will be announced Monday.

Skicross is one of five disciplines that fall under the freestyle umbrella so inclusion could be tough. There are several World Cup events scheduled for this weekend so it remains unclear who will make the cut.

"I'm sure a lot of (the athletes) will have empty stomachs depending on where they sit on that bubble," Canada Ski Cross director Dave Ellis said on a conference call. "Depending who's in the rankings behind them and how they perform, that's going to make a difference for sure."

Thompson, from Whistler, B.C., won gold Friday at the FIS Audi Val Thorens World Cup to extend her lead atop the women's overall standings.

"I didn't really feel anyone too close to me today," she said.

Duncan, from London, Ont., moved back on top of the men's standings with a bronze medal. Leman, from Calgary, took fourth place and Montreal resident Chris Del Bosco was fifth.

"The competition from within the team is what drives the success, so it's fun," said head coach Eric Archer.

Del Bosco won gold in the first of back-to-back races a day earlier. The race was cut short due to high winds so the veteran skier was given top spot due to his strong performance in the qualifications and first heat.

Del Bosco, who finished fourth at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, has struggled this season. He had not cracked the top 10 until this week and it remains to be seen whether he has done enough to get a spot on the Sochi nomination list.

"I did pretty much everything I could this weekend to give myself a shot," Del Bosco said. "At the end of the day that's all I can really do."

Danielle Sundquist of Calgary and Georgia Simmerling of West Vancouver, B.C., are also on the bubble. Sundquist finished fifth on Friday and Simmerling was seventh.

Serwa skipped Friday's race.

The qualification process is very complicated. Athletes from slopestyle, aerials, moguls and halfpipe will also be included on the freestyle team and Canada is strong in all of those events.

Of the 26 spots available in the five disciplines, there can be no more than 14 selections from either gender. The selection committee will look at results from previous years but performances this season have the biggest impact.

The depth of the national skicross team and the Canadian freestyle team as a whole leaves athletes who are on the bubble in a tough spot.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 18, 2014 C8

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