Switzerland, Japan on top in Whistler Cup

Vancouver's Sam Mulligan on podium twice for Canada as 400 young skiers compete

The entire weekend was played out in brilliant sunshine as 400 young ski racers took to the slopes to compete in the 20th annual Whistler World Cup presented by Rio Tinto Alcan.

The weekend started with the super-G on Friday (April 6), and Canada had a fantastic day with two athletes on the podium for the boys, and one amongst the top five girls. It was ladies first and Stephanie Currie from Ontario ended up taking fifth place for Team Canada. Mikayla Martin, from Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC), came in just behind, placing sixth.

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"The level of completion is really high. You have the best youth skiers from multiple countries, so obviously they're going to bring it to all the races. You just have to have confidence in yourself and go for it," said Currie.

Lorena Kaeslin of Switzerland came away with first place, while Jessica Hilzinger of Liechtenstein was second and Norway's Guro Hvammen came in third.

When the boys took to the course WMSC's Cameron Alexander claimed second spot, behind Australia's Oliver Thompson who was in first. Whistler teammate Jack Crawford lived up to high expectations, placing third.

"My run felt pretty good but it was pretty sketchy in some parts," said Alexander. "On the first jump I landed on the flats, got a bit too much air on that, but otherwise I felt really good the rest of the way down."

Also on Team Canada, Sam Mulligan took fourth place and Riley Seger finished ninth. Two other notable finishes from WMSC were Copper Yates, who went from placing 73 to finish fifth, and Max Peiffer who went from 57 to 13.

"Overall day one was a good day," Canada's lead coach Jean-François Bélisle said. "It was really a good step up on the girls' side in terms of their confidence, which showed in their results. On the boys' side, all the boys were pretty competitive, the results proved that and even with the boys who were a little further back in the rankings, it was a very good start."

Saturday (April 7) was a great race day for B.C.'s Mulligan who led the way with a third place finish in the K2 boys slalom. His quick second run gave him a combined time of 1:23.88.

"I was really excited because on the first run I was only fifth and then I had a really fast second run," said Mulligan, a member of the Grouse Mountain Tyee Ski Club. "I just let it hang a little bit more on the second run and it was really fun."

But it was a tough second day for fellow teammates Seger and Crawford, who did not finish the course. However, WMSC's Alex Gershon moved up from 48th spot to take ninth place. Marco Michel of Switzerland won, with Italy's Paolo Padello coming second.

For the girls it was Currie who once again led the Canadian contingent with a finishing place of ninth in the K2 giant slalom. WMSC racer Martin was just behind her in 10th place and teammate Stefanie Fleckenstein came in 19th.

The sun didn't stop on Sunday (April 8) and neither did the racers. The K2 boys tackled the giant slalom on Ptarmigan, and girls the more technical slalom course on the Dave Murray Downhill. Mulligan once again took to the podium with a second-place finish, just behind Italy's Paolo Padello. Teammates Crawford and Alexander came in eighth and ninth respectively.

"It was awesome to move from fifth," said Mulligan. "I skied a fast second run and it paid off. I am really happy to be on the podium -I'll aim for the top spot next time though."

Mulligan was later presented with the Dave Murray Award for top K2 Canadian boy finisher.

Ali Nullmeyer of Toronto, Ont. was the top Canadian in the girls' K2 slalom, finishing just off the podium in fourth position, with WMSC's Martin coming in sixth and Currie seventh. Slovenia's Andreja Slokar took first place, with Aline Danioth of Switzerland coming in second.

The K2 Nations Cup was given out in front a cheering crowd in Whistler's Village Square to Switzerland, which earned 177 points overall. Team Canada 1 came in second with 121, while Italy placed third.

"After the performance this weekend I have a sense of justification and validation in our club, its direction and philosophy," said Jeff MacLennan, K2 coach for the WMSC. "All the athletes threw down with confidence and conviction believing in the process we've been working."

Iles on K1 podium twice

In the K1 kombi held on Friday, Whistler's Finn Iles took first place and in the girls' race teammate Katie Fleckenstein came in eighth. Iles also took first place in the K1 giant slalom on Sunday, while Fleckenstein went on to secure fourth place in Saturday's girls' giant slalom.

The K1 Nation's Cup went to Japan, with the Dave Murray Award going to local racer Finn Iles.

"It was awesome. The best feeling ever. I've always wanted to win the Whistler Cup. Same next year," said Iles.

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