Alexandra Duckworth, a Nova Scotian halfpipe athlete who lives in Whistler, posted the best result of her career at the World Cup in Ruka, Finland, placing sixth overall. It was the first time she qualified for the final.
“The highlights were my semifinal runs this morning, which were two pretty clean runs,” said Duckworth. “Unfortunately I think I felt some fatigue in the finals and fell both times on my biggest trick.”
With limited funding for the national halfpipe program in recent years, Duckworth has been working in the off-season and was among the first athletes to launch a crowd fundraising campaign through Pursu.it to help cover her travel and training costs. She raised $10,461, almost $2,000 more than she asked for.
Only the top six athletes make the finals. Whistler’s Mercedes Nicoll just missed the cut-off, placing seventh overall. Katie Tsuyuki, another Whistler athlete, was 11th.
For the men, Squamish’s Brad Martin led the team in eighth place, while comeback athlete Crispin Lipscomb of Pemberton placed 16th. Lipscomb competed for Canada at the 2010 Olympics, and retired after the Games only to announce plans to make a comeback at the end of last season.
Whistler riders Derek Livingston and Kyle Thomas were 17th and 22nd.
“We’ve been training here in Finland for two weeks and the experience has been beyond our expectations,” said Canadian halfpipe coach Dan Raymond. “And that definitely showed in our results today. We are quite pleased with our start to the European portion of the season.”
The big snowboard news from the weekend was Canada’s dominance at the Ion Mountain Dew Tour, with Mark McMorris taking the win, Maxence Parrot placing third and Sebastient Toutant in fourth. McMorris fell in the qualifiers, but came back in the finals to finish with a near-perfect score of 97.8 for a run that included his signature 1440 triple cork on the bottom jump.
“If I’m not at the head of the pack going into my second run, I’m definitely going to have to go for it,” said McMorris. “I had nothing to lose. I told myself everything was going perfect and I had to do a triple.”
Also noteworthy for the team was Caroline Calve’s win in the women’s parallel slalom race. In the final heat she outpaced Russian rider Ekaterina Tudegesheva by just 0.06 seconds to win her third career gold medal.
Mogul skiers net three medals for Canada
The Canadian mogul ski team added three medals out of a possible six to Canada’s tally for the winter season, with Mikael Kingsbury and Alexandre Bilodeau — the world champion and Olympic champion respectively — finishing first and second overall at Ruka, Finland on Saturday (Dec. 14). Both landed double full backflips on the top air and corked 1080s on the bottom, with Kingsbury edging Bilodeau by just 0.39 points for the win.
Dale Begg-Smith, who grew up in Whistler and skis for Australia, finished fifth in the competition, while Eddie Hicks — on the comeback trail after losing all of last season to injuries — was 19th.
On the women’s side, American Hannah Kearney was unbeatable once again, but Justine Dufour-Lapointe picked up the silver medal for Canada. Chloe Dufour-Lapointe was fifth and Audrey Robichaud ninth.
In aerials, which kicked off the season at Beida Lake, China, Canada’s Travis Gerrits placed fourth overall. He will be Canada’s biggest medal threat in 2014 with Olivier Rochon tearing a ligament while freeskiing last week, although rookie Jean-Christophe André managed a solid 11th place finish at Beida Lake. On the women’s side, Sabrina Guerin was the top Canadian in 12th.
Thompson leads ski cross team
Whistler’s Marielle Thompson once again led the Canadian ski cross team, with a fifth-place finish at Val Thorens, France. It was a tight race and Thompson — who won the first event at Nakiska the previous week — was squeezed out of medal contention in a close semifinal heat, but went on to win the small final to take fifth.
The rest of the team struggled with both Georgia Simmerling and Kelsey Serwa eliminated in the quarterfinal, and none of the men advancing past the qualifier.
Janyk in points once again
Whistler’s Mike Janyk earned valuable points in his second World Cup slalom race of the season at Val d’Isere, France, on Sunday (Dec. 15), placing 21st overall. He was 20th in the season opener, and then proceeded two win two podiums at the NorAm Cup race series in Loveland Valley Ski Area in between World Cup events.
While consistency is good, Janyk was hoping for better — but took what he could get with a stomach bug draining his energy.
“I was pretty green this morning,” he said. “In my runs I had no power at the bottom.
“First run I was touch and go but made it down. Second run I found some energy. There were good sections on both runs but for me personally it was a mixed bag.”
The top result for the team was Julien Cousineau’s 18th place finish after starting well back in the 56th position. His first run put him in ninth. Cousineau is returning to racing after almost two years of being sidelined with a knee injury.