Freestylers add medals in race for Torino 

Some qualifiers may not go to Olympics

The Canadian Freestyle Ski Team continued to shine at the Deer Valley World Cup over the weekend, adding four more medals and twice as many top-10 results to the team’s growing tally. The team now has nine medals in the past two weeks to lead the Nations Cup standings.

The weekend got underway on Jan. 13 with the first of two aerials competitions. Ryan Blais of Grande Prairie, Alberta, just missed the podium with a fourth place finish behind Ryan St. Onge and Joe Pack of the U.S. and Dmitri Dashinski of Belarus.

Blais was joined in the top-10 by Kyle Nissen and Warren Shouldice of Calgary, finishing ninth and 10 th respectively. Jeff Bean was 14 th .

Australia’s Lydia Ierodiaconou of Australia won the women’s contest, followed by Manuela Mueller of Switzerland and Nina Li of China. The top Canadian was Veronika Bauer in 14 th .

In the moguls competition, the Canadian team qualified eight skiers for the finals. In the women’s competition Jennifer Heil of Spruce Grove, Alberta finished second, behind Michelle Roark of the U.S. Sara Kjellin of Sweden took the bronze. Kristi Richards of Summerland, B.C. was fifth, Stephanie St. Pierre was eighth, and Audrey Robichaud ninth. Whistler’s Sylvia Kerfoot narrowly missed qualifying, finishing her day in 21 st .

In the men’s moguls Toby Dawson of the U .S. took the gold, followed by Janne Lahtela of Finland. The bronze went to Whistler’s Dale Begg-Smith, who is competing for the Australian team.

Alexandre Bilodeau, who won gold the previous week, had to settle for fourth place by a margin of one-tenth of a point. Warren Tanner of Grimsby, Ontario and Chris Wong of Prince George were seventh and eighth, while Marc-Andre Moreau of Chambly, Quebec was 10 th .

In the second aerials contest on Saturday Toronto’s Veronika Bauer took the silver medal behind Xinxin Guo of China and ahead of Alla Tsuper of Belarus. Amber Peterson of Thunder Bay, Ontario was 10 th .

In the second men’s aerials, which was limited to one jump because of the gusting winds, Shouldice and Nissen finished second and third behind Dmitri Dashinski, while Blais finished fifth.

The two medal results were overshadowed by a serious crash involving Dmitri Arkhipov of Russia, who was air lifted from the site with a concussion and shoulder injury. There’s no word on whether Arkhipov will be able to continue his season or compete in the Olympics.

"It’s tough to be thrilled to compete when something like that happens," said Shouldice. "It really had you thinking twice, especially when you see someone get caught with a tricky wind."

With the Olympic team selection now less than 10 days away (Jan. 29) the athletes are competing against each other as much as the rest of the world. The Canadians can field a maximum of 14 athletes for the two Olympic events, moguls and aerials, with up to four athletes of any gender in any event.

Some of the athletes have already clinched spots with results in the Canadian Olympic Selection Grand Prix, which consisted of four events last season. Nissen also clinched a berth last weekend with his ninth place finish. Nissen, who is the overall World Cup leader, has qualified for the finals in his last seven World Cup starts, and has a gold, two silvers and two bronze medals this season.

The others will be chosen based on World Cup and World Championship results in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons. The first tier of selection is four top-six results or two medals and one top-six in that period. The second tier is four placing in the top half of the field, and the third tier is four World Cup placings.

Because of the strength of the team, it’s likely that more than 14 team members will qualify in the first tier of selection, which means every World Cup point and placing from this season will count towards the final team decision.


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