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For veteran Mike Riddle, who's been training with the national team since 2002, a year has made a huge difference. He struggled a little last season until he finally pulled out a win at the AFP World Championships in Whistler, and came into this year with more confidence than he's had in a while.
"I'm really skiing the best I've ever skied, I'm confident and everything is falling into place for me, so that's good," he said. "I have some new skis that are helping me out a lot. The first event on those was the (AFP World Championships) and so I'm loving my equipment these days. It supports me when I'm a little bit off, and that's making everything seem a little bit easier."
While having one podium in the bag eases the pressure a little, Riddle knows he's still a long way from the Games — and in the past stress and nerves have been his worst enemy on the tour.
"I do tend to get a little nervous for the big events, or when there's more pressure on like at X Games, the Dew Tour, the World Championships — any of those are a lot of pressure," he said. "This year I've been doing a good job not letting it get to me, and I'm going to try and keep that going."
Riddle says he's starting to downplay events in his head to keep his nerves in check, while at the same time he also feels that he's older and wiser.
As well, having the opportunity to train in Whistler last week was a huge benefit.
"We've never had a set up this good before," he said. "It's unbelievable how good this setup is.
"Having sleds? That's massive. We're getting a huge volume of jumps."
Including a few triple corked tricks that Riddle says are just for fun, with no plans to work them into his competition runs — yet.
Whistler's Simon D'Artois is practicing with the national team this year, and feels he's due for a big result. The air bag training session showed that he's capable of a lot more than he's achieved in the past. He missed his first chance to prove that at Breckenridge after dislocating a shoulder in training, but is looking forward to Copper while hoping to qualify for X Games.
"I want to qualify for X Games, and I really want to win a comp, at least, this year as well. My goal is the next competition at Copper (the Grand Prix), I really want to place well," he said.
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