SOCHI, Rus. — Canada’s new downhill sensation Ben Thomsen proved he’s the real deal Saturday.
Thomsen captured a second-place finish at the test event for the Sochi 2014 Olympics for the 24-year-old’s first career World Cup podium.
The native of Invermere, B.C. — who has taken the alpine skiing world by storm with a red-hot streak of results — produced a blazing run down the icy and bumpy track in Rosa Khutor to confirm his status as one of the World Cup circuit’s rising stars.
Starting 27th, the 5-foot-7 dynamo crossed the line in a time of two minutes, 14.37 seconds to become the newest member of the Canadian Cowboys — a title bestowed on male Canadian alpine skiers who earn top three results in World Cup, world championship or Olympic races.
Thomsen’s gutsy, determined run extended the Canadian team’s streak of podiums at consecutive men’s World Cup downhill venues to three.
His teammates Erik Guay, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., and Jan Hudec, of Calgary, Alta., finished 20th and 24th, respectively.
“It’s a little bit overwhelming right now. It’s awesome,” said Thomsen, who has career-best results in three straight downhills after finishing 11th and then fifth at consecutive races in Chamonix, France, last weekend.
“When I crossed the finish line nobody raised their hands so I thought, ‘Oh no, I must have had a bad run.’ But then I saw my name come up. I’m still in shock.”
Thomsen, who has a reputation for thriving on difficult courses, seemed to relish battling his way down a course that was rock-hard and gnarly, with tight turns at the top and huge jumps.
“It was really icy at the top. Some of the iciest conditions I’ve seen,” Thomsen said. “You could grab your hockey skates and go right down with the puck.”
Thomsen had plenty of reason to be confident going into the race. He was third, eighth and sixth in the three training runs held in Sochi this week.
“In the start gate I got nervous for once,” Thomsen said. “I knew I had some fast training runs and I knew I had to go for it all the way down. I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty.
“At the top, I was on my hip and slipping inside all over the place. When I got down onto the flats I told myself to put my head down and go for it.”
The strategy obviously paid off. Thomsen finished 0.27 seconds behind Switzerland’s Beat Feuz, who won in a time of 2:14.10. France’s Adrien Theaux was third in 2:14.69.
“Yesterday Benny struggled quite a bit on the top,” said Johno McBride, Canada’s head speed coach. “I told him if he was somewhat competitive on the top he could be a contender. He backed off to make a gate at the top and he skied well from the mid section down to the finish.”
It’s been an incredible few weeks for Canada’s men’s team. Guay started the ball rolling in Garmisch with a second-place finish and last week the trio of Hudec, Guay and Thomsen finished 1-3-5 in Chamonix, the best World Cup result the team has had on a single day since 1994.
Thomsen’s podium, in his first season as an official Canadian Alpine Ski Team member and only his second full year on the World Cup tour, takes it to the next level.
“I don’t think words can express it – just the inspiration it gives people and everyone who knows Ben,” McBride said. “He was a camp invitee who made his way onto the team. This is great for Canada, great for skiing and it’s great for our whole team.”