If you're an up-and-coming moguls skier in Canada, you can't feel all that bad finishing behind Mikaël Kingsbury and Philippe Marquis.
The latter has nine World Cup podiums under his belt and the former, at the tender age of 23, is building on the record for career World Cup wins at 33 and counting.
So Brenden Kelly was feeling pretty darn good earlier this month when he found himself standing on the podium alongside those two after the single moguls finals at Camp Fortune, Que.
Kelly posted a score of 83.72, which placed him behind only Marquis' 87.06 and Kingsbury's 91.75 in the March 12 event.
He very nearly missed his moment in the sun, though.
"I actually got taken to doping control right as I got to the bottom of my run. I barely even got to see the other guys finish. I was waiting to do my doping control and someone came in and said, 'I think you might want to go back outside. The podium starts in five minutes and I think you're on it,'" he recalled. "I was like, 'Are you serious? Is this really happening?'
"I ran outside, grabbed my skis, ran up and got to share a podium with those guys."
Given that the contest is a culmination of the year's work, Kelly took some extra inspiration from his result.
"For me, the impact that senior nationals has on the whole country is really, really important," he said. "It's always the last event of the year and it's always the climax of the year. Whatever you've been working towards, you put it all on the line at that last event. To be on the podium with those guys is just incredible... To share it with those guys is surreal."
Admittedly, being at the end of the season left Kelly with some wear and tear. In spite of that, he turned around and pulled off his top result of the year.
"It's surprising. That's the worst I've felt this season. I was a little bit sick. I was quite tired. I'd been on the road for about 10 weeks and there were training camps before that. For me, I think I was just not really ever over-thinking it and just letting the muscle memory take over really helped me," Kelly said.
The 20-year-old had the chance to compete with some high-level skiers for much of the season, as despite being in the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association's C Group, he was called up to take part in six World Cup events this year as several other Canadian skiers were forced to take time off because of injury. Kelly took a best result of 30th in dual moguls at the Tazawako, Japan stop at the end of February.
"I've come to terms with the level of competition that I'm competing at and the level of competition that I could be competing at if I train hard enough. To share the podium and beat some of the guys that were beating me this year throughout the season, to get one back on them really just got me super motivated to train as hard as I can and do whatever I can this summer to keep the position that I'm in," he said. "Right behind those guys is, I think, a really good place to be right now in this country."
Kelly already knows he'll be back on the C squad for 2016-17, but he has incentive to qualify for the Canadian World Cup events, as the CFSA gets extra spots for its athletes at its host events.
The moguls discipline is generally dominated by Eastern Canadian skiers, but Kelly was part of a program to bring more Western Canadians onto the team. He hopes his success helps to build a strong contingent of diligent skiers from coast to coast.
"I hope it'll motivate other kids growing up on the West (Coast)," he said. "It just shows that if you're going to work hard enough, it doesn't matter what side of the country you're on, you can make it to that level."
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