Placing sixth, Whistler skier Cooper Bathgate was the top-finishing Canadian in the men's ski category at the Freeride Junior World Championships in Grandvalira, Andorra last weekend.
But one of his teammates — both nationally and with the Whistler Freeride Club — was a jump away from winning the whole shebang.
West Vancouver's Liam Peiffer was putting together a very impressive run and with his final jump, made a leap that he hoped would put an exclamation point on his run for the judges.
However, Peiffer fell just short of landing the jump and it dropped him all the way to 18th, just behind Cooper's brother Jackson Bathgate.
Peiffer's strategy was right on point, as head coach Derek Foose said the judges told him Peiffer hitting the jump would have been enough to surpass eventual winner Arthur Raskin of France who scored 1800 points. Peiffer ended up with 362.
Reached in Andorra via Facebook chat through Foose's account, Peiffer is of two minds with the knowledge.
"I was pissed to hear that I would have won, but (it's) a huge confidence boost as well," he reasoned. "I was a bit short on my landing. Shouldn't have done that speed check! Always go faster than you think."
Foose said while Peiffer is experiencing some disappointment, he's focusing more on knowing he's not that far off from the top of the world.
"Liam is half stoked and half bummed," he said. "Mostly though, he's happy with the knowledge that if he'd stuck his run he would be world champion."
Cooper Bathgate also went for broke at the end of his run with a high-flying points grab. He didn't pull off the sturdiest landing, but did land on his feet to earn his score of 740 points.
This competition provided an extra challenge to North American skiers, as it followed the European protocol of cordoning off the race site for weeks before the competition, forcing the skiers to plan their runs only by analyzing it from afar. Cooper explained his big finish might have played out differently had he been able to tackle a few advance runs on the course.
"I might not have hit my bottom air if I could have looked at it from above. The takeoff was all rock!" he reported.
Additionally, Cooper said skiers were "totally blind" at the top, so competitors weren't able to draw conclusions from those who had gone before them.
Jackson, meanwhile, saw his golden hopes fade early on in his run, as he stumbled over some rocks and went down momentarily. He was challenged by rocks and other obstacles — "shark attacks" — appearing fairly suddenly, a particularly frustrating development considering he wasn't keen on his plan to begin with.
"(I was) looking for a playful fun line. I picked the line that looked like the most fun. I wasn't exactly stoked to ski it, mostly just nervous," he explained. "[T]he plan changed after the fall. I couldn't get to where I wanted to go so had to improvise a bit."
Though Foose said it would have been a thrill to help lead the athletes to the podium, he was enthusiastic with how all three performed, especially considering they weren't able to generate familiarity with the mountain.
"I think the skiers took the ability to inspect visually and turn it into shredding. The Canadian kids showed a totally different style to the (Europeans). They're keeping the Crazy Canuck legacy alive!" he noted. "They all killed it, had a great time, and came home safe."
On the ladies' side, Haley Cooke placed sixth and Andrea Byrne tied for ninth.
Videos of all runs in the competition are online at www.dailymotion.com/FreerideWorldTourTV.
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