Invermere alpine ski racer Ben Thomsen earned his spot on the Canadian Olympic team in dramatic, last-minute style last weekend.
Mr. Thomsen needed a top-12 finish in a World Cup race to qualify for the Sochi games, but as he entered the downhill race at Kitzbühel on January 25th, his best result so far this year was a 37th place.
But putting his frustrating season behind him, ignoring his less-than-ideal 50th-out-of-gate start position and trying not to think too much about this weekend literally being his last chance to make it to his first-ever Olympics, Mr. Thomsen flew down the course to squeak into 12th place.
“I wanted to go out there and I wanted to get an amazing result. For me, 12th was an amazing result. It was just good enough – I’m so happy I wasn’t 13th. I would put it in the top five best runs of my life, feeling-wise,” said Mr. Thomsen after the race, in a press release.
The renowned Hahnenkamm downhill course at Kitzbühel is regarded by many top-notch alpine ski racers as the most challenging stop on the World Cup circuit, but Mr. Thomsen has had a knack in the past for his ability to shine on tough courses, and has always called the Hahnenkamm his favourite course.
“There’s just something about Kitzbühel. There are so many people here and they love ski racing so much,” he said.
Mr. Thomsen made waves when he grabbed the silver medal at a pre-
Olympic downhill World Cup race in Sochi — another course renown as being difficult — two years ago and by so doing became a Canadian Cowboy (Canadian alpine ski racers who have been on the podium at a World Cup race), but his best result last year was a 12th place finish and his struggles this year until Saturday had shattered his confidence.
“It’s been a whole season of just trying to get in the points. You lose so much confidence when you’re not getting results,” said Mr. Thomsen, adding he literally yelled with joy and relief at the finishing line in Kitzbühel.
“I’ve spent a lot of time feeling good in races and wondering why it wasn’t coming together. I’ve been trying to get this feeling all season,” he said. “I was under an immense amount of pressure.”
“I just told myself to ‘do what you’re meant to do.’ It was kind of a repeat of the Sochi run (two years ago) when I was going down the course and I didn’t have anything on my mind. Hopefully this is just like two years ago when I went on that run.”
“It’s been a tough year but the team is always right behind you, pushing you, supporting you,” he said. “When you come through the finish area and you look over to your teammates and see them smiling and celebrating, it’s really special.”
Mr. Thomsen’s second place finish at Sochi in 2012 may give him the psychological edge of knowing he can ski the course well going into the Olympics, but several World Cup racers said they’ve heard the actual Olympic course in
Sochi will be much different than the test event course there, so all the racers may be in somewhat unfamiliar territory for the games.