Despite an injury to world champion aerialist Warren Shouldice, and decisions by 2010 Olympic champion Alex Bilodeau and 2007 world champion Kristi Richards to step back from competition to train, the 2011-2012 season was still one of the most successful ever for the national freestyle team.
The team claimed two overall crystal globes, with Mikael Kingsbury finishing on every moguls podium this season and Olivier Rochon stepping up to establish himself as one of the top aerialists in the world.
The team also won the overall Nations Cup title for the seventh year in a row on the strength of 42 World Cup medals. Freeskiers in moguls and halfpipe, both Olympic events in 2014, didn't earn any International Skiing Federation (FIS) points, but won 14 podiums at pro events including X Games and the Dew Tour.
With that foundation to build on, the team announced its roster for next season — a world championship season as well as the team's first opportunity to qualify teams for the Olympics.
The team's goal is to win a total of six medals at Sochi, not including ski cross. While that may seem aggressive, the team has proven athletes in men's and women's moguls, men's aerials and both men's and women's slopestyle and superpipe.
"Youth, depth and exceptional talent is how I'd characterize next season's roster," said high performance program director David Mirota.
"What we're seeing is the result of an incredibly strong history of freestyle skiing in Canada, where great athletes come back as great coaches and keep the evolution going, it's a cycling effect."
The men's moguls team will be anchored by Alex Bilodeau and Mikael Kingsbury, with Philippe Marquis and Marc-Antoine Gagnon joining the A Group this year. The B Group features Whistler's Eddie Hicks, Philippe Marquis, Cedric Rochon, Simon Pouliot-Cavanagh and Pascal-Olivier Gagne. The C Group is Simon Lemieux, Hugo Blanchette, Luke Ulsifer and Kerrian Chunlaud.
The women's A Group is Kristi Richards, sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe and Audrey Robichaud. Whistler's Chelsea Henitiuk is with the B Group once again, along with Maxime Dufour-Lapointe and 16-year old Andi Naude, who trains out of Whistler and was a force to be reckoned with on the NorAm Cup circuit last season. The C Group features Beatrice Bilodeau, Christel Hamel, Kiera Leung and Myriam Leclerc.
Aerials used to be Canada's strongest event, but with the retirement of several senior athletes in recent years the men's team is small and the women's team has all but vanished. The A Group will include Warren Shouldice, Olivier Rochon and up-and-comers Travis Gerrits and Jean-Claude Andre. Remi Belanger and Jon Vellner are the men's B Group, and Marc-Antoine Labbe-Giguere and Dave Blais are C Group. The women's B Group is Sabrina Guerin and veteran Veronika Bauer, who is returning from injury.
In halfpipe, where the team is based in Whistler, the men's A team will be comprised of Justin Dorey, Mike Riddle and Noah Bowman and the women's team of Squamish's Rosalind Groenewoud. Whistler's Simon D'Artois was promoted to B Group this season, alongside Matt Margetts of Penticton. The women's B Group is Megan Gunning, Keltie Hansen and Dania Assaly.
In slopestyle, the women's team is incredibly solid with Kaya Turski — who won every pro event she entered this season — and Dara Howell on the A Group. Pemberton's Yuki Tsubota will compete with Kim Lamarre on B Group.
The men's team was hard-hit by injuries, but Alex Bellemare and Jean-Francois Houle will represent the A Group. The B Group is loaded with talented athletes with Vernon's TJ Schiller and Charles Gagnier on the list, along with Vincent Gagnier, Alexi Godbout, Alex Beaulieu-Marchand, Jamieson Irvine and Noah Morrison.
Sollors tops Ruckus in the Rockies
The last big Canadian snowboard event of the season took place last week at Lake Louise, with the second annual Ruckus in the Rockies. The contest is a bit unusual. Athletes are paired up as teams of two that attack a hybrid table/rail/hip setup at the bottom of the slope.
The best team overall was Whistler's Mark Sollors and Dustin Craven, who had to face each other for the top individual prize.
Sollors took the win in the end, aided by a slow, stylish backflip, and won a 2012 Kawasaki dirt bike.
The award for best team went to Jonas Guinn and Kelly Schovanek. For more, see the video at www.monsterenergy.com/ca/en/news/ruckus-the-after-party/.
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