With European countries like Austria, Germany and Finland bringing all of their top athletes, and Japan fielding its strongest team yet, the Canadians will have their work cut out for them when Whistler hosts back to back snowboardcross and halfpipe World Cup events on Blackcomb Dec. 8-11.
The Whistler freestyle events and the parallel giant slalom taking place the following weekend in Quebec are the last opportunities for Canadian riders to qualify for the 2006 Olympics. The same goes for several other countries that are coming to Whistler looking to fill quota spots.
While most of the athletes are well known, at least one contender is a bona fide legend. This week the organizers at IMG confirmed that Shaun Palmer, one of the biggest names in snowboarding, will attempt to qualify for a spot on the U.S. team for Torino.
"Hes been winning it all in many different sports, and the one thing he doesnt have yet is an Olympic gold medal," said Mark Taylor, vice president of IMG Action Sports, which is producing the SnowScene World Cup events.
As for the venues on Blackcomb, a representative from the Internationale Federation de Ski gave the event the go-ahead on Saturday. While the halfpipe and snowboardcross course were not yet built, the FIS representative was satisfied that snowmaking could deliver four World Cup competitions for next week.
"We got in a situation where we got off to a great start, then went nine days without snow or snowmaking ability," said Taylor. "That changed last week, and were making a whack of snow. Weve got 30 snowguns on the competition slope, and were capable of making about seven acre-feet of snow a day while its cold enough.
"This Thursday, when the machines go in to build the venues, well have made about two metres of snow. That will be more than enough to create great snowboardcross and halfpipe venues, even without help from mother nature."
The snowboardcross course is being designed so the finish area comes out in the same area as the halfpipe.
"It should be great for the spectators. People on the Solar Coaster will be able to see it all clearly and theres some great spots on course for people to watch, and of course at the finish line to watch the riders come in," said Taylor.
Event organizers are still looking for volunteers to help out with the event. All volunteers will receive event passes, free meals and an event T-shirt. If you can spare some time over the weekend, visit www.snowscene.ca and click on the Volunteers Needed banner to register online.
Its going to be a busy four day. Originally there were supposed to be two snowboardcross events and one halfpipe, but a halfpipe that was scheduled for the following weekend in Quebec was moved to Whistler a few weeks ago.
Schedule of Events:
Thursday, Dec. 8
10:15-11:15 a.m. Snowboardcross #1 Finals
1:15-3:30 p.m. Snowboardcross #2 Mens Qualifier
Friday, Dec. 9
8:55-9:55 Halfpipe #1 Qualifier, Ladies Heat One
10-11:30 a.m. Snowboardcross #2 Womens Qualifier
10:25-11:25 Halfpipe #1 Qualifier, Ladies Heat Two
11:55 a.m. to 1:25 p.m. Halfpipe #1 Quialifier Mens Heat One
1-2:15 p.m. Snowboardcross #2 Finals
1:55-3:25 p.m. Halfpipe #1 Qualifier, Mens Heat Two
Saturday, Dec. 10
10-11 a.m. Halfpipe #1 Finals
12:25-2:55 Halfpipe #2 Womens Qualifier
Sunday, Dec. 11
8:55 a.m. to 12:25 Halfpipe #2, Mens Qualifier
1:30-2:30 p.m. Halfpipe #2 Finals
The Canadian roster is:
Dominique Maltais (SBX) *
Maëlle Ricker (HP, SBX) *
Sarah Conrad (HP) *
Erin Simmons (SBX) *
Dominique Vallée (HP, SBX) *
Sarah Hunter (SBX)
Charmaine Ironside (HP)
Candice Drouin (SBX)
Calynn Irwin (HP)
Catherine Rochette (HP)
Koko Wright (HP)
Mercedes Nicoll (HP) *
Cori Olafson (SBX)
Katie Tsuyuki (HP)
Kael Hill (HP)
Hugo Lemay (HP) *
Brad Martin (HP) *
Drew Neilson (SBX) *
Jasey-Jay Anderson (SBX) *
Francois Boivin (SBX) *
Rob Fagan (SBX) *
Tom Velisek (SBX) *
Carl Cowtan (SBX)
Mike Robertson (SBX)
Ryan Hickey (SBX)
Kory Wright (HP)
Matt Tunnicliffe (SBX)
Jeff Batchelor (HP)
Simon Bonenfant (SBX)
Dustin Craven (HP)
Justin Lamoureux (HP) *
Crispin Lipscomb (HP) *
Adam Livingstone (SBX)
Daniel Longo (HP)
Mike Michalchuk (HP)
Guillaume Morisset (HP)
Dan Raymond (HP) *
Don Schwartz (SBX)
* National Team athlete
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