Canadian aerials skier Marion Thénault, coming off an individual top-10 finish at her Olympic debut last February, earned a silver medal to open the women's World Cup season on Sunday in Ruka, Finland.
Only Danielle Scott of Australia scored higher than the 90.59 points posted by the 22-year-old from Sherbrooke, Que., for her back double full-full. Scott cruised to victory scoring 99.05 while Kazakhstan's Zhanbota Aldabergenova was a distant third (80.04).
"I've been struggling here for the past two years and I really wanted to nail my last jump today," Thenault told Freestyle Canada after collecting her fourth World Cup podium. "That was my main goal and I did everything I could to achieve it.
"It seems like all the pieces of the puzzle we've been working on for the past year came together today. It shows that I'm on the right track."
Scott dominated the competition from start to finish and posted a winning score of 99.05 in the super final.
WATCH | Thénault reaches medal podium in Ruka, Finland:
At the Beijing Olympics, Thénault amassed 91.29 points on her second and best jump and placed seventh in the final, failing to finish among the top six for the super final at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, China.
She also teamed with Miha Fontaine and Lewis Irving to win Canada's first-ever bronze medal in mixed team aerials as the event made its Winter Games debut. On Sunday, Irving picked up bronze behind Swiss duo Pirmin Werner and Noe Roth, delivering a full-double full-full back that earned him 109.29 points.
Flavie Aumond of Lac-Beauport, Que., placed 10th on Sunday. She scored 80.32 in the qualifier before dropping nearly 10 points in the first final with 70.56.
Thénault has been a quick study since gaining a spot on the national development team four years ago and training full-time after being recruited by Freestyle Canada.The former gymnast became a full-time member of Canada's World Cup team in the 2020-21 season and twice reached the podium on the way to grabbing FIS freestyle rookie of the year honours.
Thénault entered last season coming off a sixth-place performance at the world championships and posted three top-five finishes, including silver at a World Cup last January in Lac-Beauport, Que., to place eighth in the world rankings.
WATCH | Thénault — a natural in aerials:
In January 2021, she won bronze in Moscow and had her career-best result with gold in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Thénault, who is studying at Montreal's Concordia University to become an aerospace engineer, entered the off-season wanting to add to her repertoire by developing a triple jump for a better chance to reach the World Cup podium more consistently.
During a recent interview with French-language digital newspaper La Presse in Montreal, Thenault said she wanted to navigate the new Olympic cycle hassle-free by establishing a route of habits.
She wants to focus more on training habits and be mindful of using her time wisely off snow to help her perform better.
"I'm not going to do any more difficult jumps than last year," Thenault told La Presse, "but I plan to do them better."
WATCH | Irving reaches men's podium in World Cup return:
On the men's side, Irving missed the entire 2021-22 World Cup season due to a knee injury suffered in Ruka.
"I couldn't have asked for a better comeback," he said. "I worked really hard over the summer to get back into competition shape and I'm happy to celebrate my return with a medal. I was confident all day, especially after some great training this week."
Québec City's Alexandre Duchaine (103.98) was fifth in the men's superfinal.
Canada's skiers will use the coming weeks to train and sharpen their mental skills for the Jan. 21-22 Cup of Aerials at Le Relais ski resort in Québec City.