Clarke snags slopestyle gold 

Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club athletes win eight medals at nationals

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Golden girl Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club member Skye Clarke (centre) is flanked by teammates Michelle Macpherson (left) and Cassidy Butterworth (right).
  • Photo submitted
  • Golden girl Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club member Skye Clarke (centre) is flanked by teammates Michelle Macpherson (left) and Cassidy Butterworth (right).

For freestyle skier Skye Clarke, her only limit seems to be, well, the sky.

The 13-year-old Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club (WBFSC) member cruised to U14 girls' slopestyle gold at the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association Junior Nationals at Beaver Creek, Ont. on March 17. Teammate Cassidy Butterworth ended up taking third.

As part of a week where gusting winds forced the slopestyle competition back a day, Clarke made all the adjustments she needed to in order to find success. She came out quickly with a sharp move on her first jump before ripping up the rest of her run.

"I did a certain trick called a flat 3, which is an off-axis back flip and I did it really clean and did a Japan grab, which really stuck out to the judges, I think, because nobody else did it," she said.

Clarke dominated the competition, scoring a 70.6 to beat the nearest competitor by 18 whole points. WBFSC slopestyle coach Chris Muir said there was no doubt Clarke would be the winner with the run she laid down.

"Her strength, especially compared to other females, is she's really big on rails," he said. "She's able to ride the same rails that some of the boys are doing, so that's what really put her over the top.

"She was doing some really difficult off-axis tricks — a flat 3, as well as being able to spin with a really nicely executed grab. That's why she won that day. She put it all down and actually, she stepped up to go bigger on her second (attempt) but she ended up crashing. Her first run was pretty substantial."

The conditions led to some challenges during training, which Clarke eventually overcame on competition day.

"The snow was really, really slow, so it was hard for me, since I'm really light, to get speed for the jumps, which was a challenge," she said. "I went straight into all the jumps and I just tucked really hard."

Muir was impressed with how calm Clarke proved to be, especially since she was competing at the national level for the first time.

"She overcame any jitters that she would have had and she did phenomenal," he said. "She's a pretty calm person. If she did (have jitters) she keeps it on the inside. She's definitely a competitor and likes to be out there."

Muir explained all the club's athletes impressed him with their performances, finding their individual grooves at the Ontario park.

"I was definitely really happy. Everyone stepped up, especially given the conditions," he said. "Everyone did really well, especially on the mental side of things, they performed even with all the plans changing."

Four other WBFSC athletes won slopestyle medals, leaving the club as the only B.C. organization to hit the podium this time around. Luke Smart won silver in the U16 boys' division, as did brother Kai for the U14s. Anders Ujejski, meanwhile, won bronze for the U16 boys, while Michelle Macpherson followed suit for the U16 girls.

Maya Mikkelsen, meanwhile, took two U14 girls moguls medals, winning a silver in the dual moguls and a bronze for the singles.

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