Marielle Thompson has stormed back to the top of the podium

BY: Christina Newberry

For Marielle Thompson, the reigning Olympic gold medalist in women’s ski cross, sport is a family affair. Her brother, Broderick – recently named to the Canadian men’s alpine ski team – likes to claim some responsibility for his sister’s success. (“Probably quite accurate,” she says. “He was always that younger brother giving me the push I needed. We’re close for sure.”) Little sister Tess skied competitively until age 13, and parents Rod and Pam are both former ski instructors who now ski “just for fun” with their kids. Rod recently retired from Whistler Secondary School, where he oversaw a program that allowed student athletes to maintain their rigorous training schedules, and he’s volunteered at the Nakiska start gate the last few years.

It’s all natural for a family based in Whistler, B.C., the mountain town that’s produced both of Canada’s women’s ski cross gold medalists.

“It’s a very active community, and everyone’s really supportive of sport,” Thompson said. “It makes for good athletes.”

Thompson was in grade 12 when she watched fellow Whistler Mountain Ski Club member Ashleigh McIvor win Olympic ski cross gold in 2010. “I’ve known Ashley since I was little, so it was really inspiring to know that someone coming out of Whistler can win an Olympic gold medal,” Thompson said. “I was thinking it would be so cool if I could do that, but I didn’t think it would be realistic in four years’ time.”

Pam, though, always knew her daughter was destined for great things. “When people ask her if she expected her child to win the Olympics, she’s like, ‘Well, yeah!’” Thompson said.

The 23-year-old says she has a reputation for being serious, but the truth is she’s sometimes anything but. “When I’m ski racing, I guess I don’t show a lot of emotion on my face, so people think I’m always mad. I give the impression that I’m not happy, but I’m usually just in the zone when I’m skiing.” She gets in that zone by listening to Taylor Swift or Katy Perry songs, “pump-up jams” she chooses because they’re positive and easy to sing along to.

Off the hill, Thomson loves any music she can belt out, from oldies like Marvin Gaye to the “old-school rap” she’s picked up from the guys on her team. She spends her off-mountain winter hours skating and playing shinny, and her summers hiking, swimming and paddleboarding – plus playing slo-pitch on a team that includes all five members of the Thompson clan.

Returning from a season-ending meniscus injury in February 2015, Thompson says she’s ready to compete. “I feel really good,” she said. “I think I can be back where I was.”

Thompson’s last full season (2013–14) ended with her second crystal globe, making where she was a pretty ambitious place to reach. She’s off to a promising start, reaching the top of the podium in her first event of the season. You can bet at least four other people’s expectations are equally high: Broderick, Tess, and Mom and Dad

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