A year spent building towards Sochi 

A look back at 2013's memorable moments in Whistler and Pemberton sports

click to enlarge PHOTO BY OLIVIER KRAUS / COURTESY OF FIS - Undisputed champ Olympic snowboard cross champ Maëlle Ricker celebrates after winning her first world championship title in Quebec in January.
  • Photo by Olivier Kraus / Courtesy of FIS
  • Undisputed champ Olympic snowboard cross champ Maëlle Ricker celebrates after winning her first world championship title in Quebec in January.

It's now just a matter of weeks until we're watching the world's best compete at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, the first Winter Games to take place since Whistler and Vancouver hosted the five-ringed circus four years ago. For many of the athletes who call Whistler home, 2013 was a time to make final preparations for the Olympics or put their names into consideration for Canada's team in Sochi. For others, it was a year to continue chasing goals of the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.

But Whistler was also as busy as ever during the summer months when it comes to sport. Crankworx reached a milestone birthday, Ironman Canada made its new home here, and athletes from the resort ran, paddled and pedalled to excellent performances while there was no snow to speak of.

It's hard to distill it all into a few highlights, but here's our take on the biggest and most memorable moments in Whistler, or by Whistler athletes, from the past 12 months.


Pemberton's Yuki Tsubota had a busy January, winning the women's ski slopestyle title during The North Face Park and Pipe Open Series event held in Whistler. She also made her Winter X Games debut later in the month, finishing sixth. In March, Tsubota wound up in fifth place at the FIS Freestyle Ski World Championships in Norway.

The Whistler-based national halfpipe team turned in strong results all season as well. Some of them came during the year's first month, with Mike Riddle winning the U.S. Grand Prix in the men's event, which helped him to the Crystal Globe later in the year. Rosalind Groenewoud finished second at the women's Grand Prix event, then shared the podium with teammate Megan Gunning at the Winter X Games when they finished second and third, respectively.

Olympic women's snowboard cross champ Maëlle Ricker added "world champion" to her resumé in January when she claimed her first FIS World Snowboard Championship title at Stoneham, Que. She was the fastest qualifier, won both her quarter-final and semifinal heats, then led the way in the final as she and Canadian teammate Dominique Maltais claimed the top two spots. Ricker would also win her seventh title at the Legendary Banked Slalom in early February in Washington.

The Whistler Sliding Centre hosted the FIL Luge World Championships on Feb. 1 and 2. Germany was dominant as expected, winning all four races, but Canada had several great performances and was the only other nation to capture multiple medals. Alex Gough earned a women's bronze and joined Sam Edney, Tristan Walker and Justin Snith in a silver-medal finish in team relay. Edney was fifth in men's competition and Walker and Snith were fourth in the doubles race. Felix Loch (men's), Natalie Geisenberger (women's) and Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt (doubles) were crowned world champs in their individual races, then teamed up as a foursome to grab the relay gold.

Marielle Thompson had an extremely frustrating start to the season, but she ended the winter with a bang. She earned a silver medal in a one-two finish with Canadian teammate Kelsey Serwa during the Olympic test event at Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 19, then went on to claim another silver at the FIS Freestyle Ski World Championships at Voss, Norway in mid-March.

Whistler's Mike Janyk also had a frustrating start to the year, but put in a great performance at the FIS Alpine Ski World Championships from Schladming, Austria, helping Canada to a fourth-place finish in the team event. The World Cup slalom specialist and the rest of the Canadian team missed bronze by just one-hundredth of a second in a third-place battle with Germany. Later in the month, Whistler-trained skier Ford Swette would end up on the podium in team-event competition at the Junior World Ski Championships in Quebec.

Manuel Osborne-Paradis had a very respectable winter season as he returned to the Canadian Alpine Ski Team for 2012-13 after missing nearly two full years to injury. His most notable performance came in the March 2 downhill at Kvitfjell, Norway, when he finished fourth — just one-hundredth of a second from the medal positions. The Whistler product would end the campaign ranked 13th in the downhill standings.

Morgan Pridy won back-to-back super-Gs and a combined race at Nakiska, Alta., on March 12 and 13 to secure the Nor-Am Cup titles in those disciplines. The season titles earned him a permanent place on the World Cup tour for the 2013-14 campaign.

It was a great year for Whistler Mountain Ski Club athletes all around. The club sent a team to Italy for the annual Topolino youth races and the crew fared extremely well. B.C. Ski Team member Broderick Thompson also picked up a GS victory in a FIS race in France during the team's January trip through Europe. Closer to home, Mikayla Martin captured the girls' Parsons Trophy for the second year in a row, while Riley Seger grabbed the boys' title during the long-running speed races. Seger also earned the overall title during the U16 Can-Am Western Championships at Panorama in March.

Whistler skiers were also solid during this year's Whistler Cup in April. Jack Crawford won the U16 boys' super-G and picked up silver in slalom to claim the Dave Murray Award as top Canadian and help the host country to the Nations Cup title. Finn Iles earned the U14 Dave Murray Award, edging fellow local Kasper Woolley for the honour.

Whistler Winterhawks midget hockey team earned a silver-medal finish at the B.C. Hockey Tier 3 Provincial Championships. Whistler went 4-1 in earlier tournament games before falling 5-2 to the hosts from Port Alberni in the gold medal match-up.

Marie-Michele Gagnon put on a show during the Sport Chek Canadian Alpine Championships in Whistler at the end of March, winning women's titles in slalom, GS and super-G to push her total of national championship wins to 10. Only Britt Janyk, Nancy Greene-Raine, Kathy Kreiner and Emily Brydon reached double-digits in their careers, and Gagnon achieved her total by the age of 23. Osborne-Paradis also won the men's downhill title in his first race back in Whistler since the 2010 Olympics.

As usual, the winter season wrapped up with the World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF). With the ski events up first this year, Vincent Gagnier broke through for the World Skiing Invitational (WSI) big air win, having finished on the podium in 2011 and 2012, but not on time. Gus Kenworthy put the finishing touches on another AFP World Tour overall title, winning the WSI slopestyle en route to his third consecutive Sarah Burke Trophy as the tour's overall men's winner.

In some highlights from Monster Energy Shred Show snowboard competition, Maxence Parrot won the big air contest with a triple-cork 1260 to close out the WSSF. Whistler rider Jon Versteeg won the Boarderstyle event, and Norway's Emil Ulsletten edged U.S. rider Eric Willett for the slopestyle crown. Flat-track roller derby also made its WSSF debut, with hundreds of fans packed into the Whistler Conference Centre to watch the hometown Black Diamond Betties knock off Squamish's Sea to Sky Sirens 157-149 in a come-from-behind victory.



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