Austrian sweeps Whistler Cup races 

Benbow, Fortin-Houle lead Canadian team

Spectators got a glimpse into the future of Alpine racing last weekend at the 10 th annual Sierra Wireless-Air Canada Whistler Cup juvenile ski races.

If the results are any indication of what we might see on the World Cup circuit in the next five to 10 years, then Canada looks strong, Croatia and U.S. will emerge as forces to be reckoned with, and Austria will continue to reign as the first nation of skiing. One Austrian racer, Kathrin Triendl, won the gold medal in all three K2 events.

Strong performances were also given by teams from Norway, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The 2002 Whistler Cup featured almost 300 racers from 17 different countries in the K1 (age 11 and 12) and K2 (age 13 and 14) categories. For many North Americans competitors, it’s their first exposure to European skiers and their passion for the sport.

The competition got underway under sunny skies on April 5 with a slushy super G on Whistler Mountain’s Raven-Ptarmigan run for the K2s.

For the girls, Kathrin Triendl took the gold medal with a time of one minute 1.88 seconds. Racing for the B.C. Team, Whistler’s Kendall Benbow, 14, won the silver medal in 1:02.77.

"This is amazing, I’m so overwhelmed right now," said Benbow, who was competing in her fourth, and last, Whistler Cup competition. "I knew it was a really rough course and it’s hard to know if you’ve hard a good run. When I finished I wasn’t sure where I placed but knew I had a good run. I wasn’t expecting a silver but I’m really happy and excited."

Third place went to Julia McClean of New Zealand in 1:02.90.

While Benbow was the only Canadian to crack the top 15 on Friday, four made it into the top 20. Cynthia Tessier of Quebec was 16 th , Whistler’s Allison Leighon was 17 th , Calgary’s Melissa Yarmaloy was 19 th and Michele Bélanger of Quebec was 20 th .

The Canadian contingent got another nice surprise in the men’s super G, with Francis Fortin-Houle, 14, of Repentigny, Quebec finishing in third place with a time of 1:00.41. Right behind in fourth place was Simon Mannella of Piedmont, Quebec, in 1:01.09.

"This event is a like a little World Cup race for juveniles," observed Fortin-Houle. "It’s important to see Austria and other countries up close like on the World Cup circuit. These international events have a much stronger field, so I was aiming for a top 10. Finishing third is amazing."

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