Norway certainly did it the right way.
The Scandinavian nation was awarded the U16 Nations' Cup in Whistler Village on Sunday afternoon (April 5), and one major reason for it was the performance of Mikkel Solbakken. Solbakken, 15, swept all three men's races to help his country surge past Team Canada.
In Sunday's giant slalom, Solbakken bested second-place teammate Lucas Braathen by 3.12 seconds for the win. His narrowest margin of victory came Friday, when he beat Markus Fossland in the super-G by 2.06 seconds, a relative sliver. In Saturday's slalom, he defeated Fossland by 2.25 seconds.
Solbakken wasn't surprised he won gold in Whistler, but to take all three was admittedly unexpected. He noted the giant slalom is usually his best discipline, but felt his top race of the weekend came in the super-G. All told, he was proud of his performance all weekend, especially with bumpier conditions starting to form later in Sunday's races.
"I tried to go as fast as I could down and managed to hold my line," Solbakken said. "I was kind of suspecting (I would win a race). It was what I hoped. But I didn't think I would win three races."
Head coach Ola Masdal echoed the star racer's sentiment, noting Solbakken has a calm demeanour and avoids wasting energy.
"I wouldn't say I expected it, but I knew he was able to do it," he said.
Masdal was proud of all the racers, as the country posted 15 top-15 finishes to count towards the Nations' Cup, including seven podium finishes. Emma Aaseboe added to Solbakken's gold rush with a first-place finish of her own in the super-G.
"They were focused and were always performing at the top level," Masdal said. "You never know what other people are going to do. I knew our team could do well."
Japan, meanwhile, took the U14 trophy.
Solbakken wasn't the only racer to win multiple gold medals, as U14 skier Alice Robinson of New Zealand took the dual slalom and giant slalom, but was denied the sweep, finishing 19th in the slalom. Hungary's Szonja Hozmann took the gold. As for the U16 racers, Nikola Bubakova of the Czech Republic recovered from not finishing the super-G to win both the giant slalom and the slalom. In the U14 men, Chile's Diego Holscher took the dual slalom, Team BC's Liam Applegath won the slalom and Japan's Kai Terashima was tops in giant slalom.
Canadians show well
There were five individual awards handed out to Canadian skiers for their showings in the event.
Whistler Mountain Ski Club's (WMSC) Kyle Alexander (U16) and Applegath (U14) won the respective Dave Murray Awards for their divisions, while Montreal's Catherine Dufresne (U16) and Toronto's Daisy Taylor (U14) took the Nancy Greene Awards on the ladies' side. Big White's Brooke Lukinuk won the Lynne Hume Dedication Award and the $1,000 scholarship that goes with it.
Alexander acknowledged he won the award primarily based off his bronze-medal showing in the opening super-G, as he placed 32nd in the slalom and did not finish the giant slalom.
"It just ended up going well," Alexander said of his third-place posting. "I just went and skied it and didn't set my expectations too high."
Applegath's weekend, meanwhile, was headlined by his win in the slalom, besting WMSC's Nathan Romanin by over two seconds.
Applegath performed well despite battling back problems this weekend in a season where he's taken on his fair share of illness and injury. He noted he did some extra stretching before heading out, but it eventually came down to mind over matter.
"You have nothing really on your mind except for the course and what you'd like to do," Applegath noted, adding he was grateful to his coaches, parents and friends for helping make the weekend a success.
In his second Whistler Cup, he also tied for ninth in the dual slalom and was 12th in the giant slalom.
Romanin, also in his second, was just off a medal in Friday's dual slalom, finishing fourth. With a feeling he could hang with the big dogs, he shook off a tough first run to surge from 11th to his podium finish.
"I was really tired in the morning, wasn't really ready. In the second run, I gave it my all," he said.
Romanin had a consistent weekend all told, taking fourth in the dual slalom and fifth in the giant slalom. Dufresne started the weekend with an eighth-place in the super-G, took bronze in the giant slalom and jumped up to earn silver in the slalom. Taylor tied for fifth in the dual slalom, was 12th in the giant slalom and capped the weekend with a bronze medal in the slalom.
Other podium results for Canadians included bronzes for Team Canada's Samantha Boughner in the super-G and Lake Louise's Avery Lebsack in the dual slalom.
Several WMSC members also made it into the top 15. For the U16 women, Katie Fleckenstein, representing Team Canada, did so on all three occasions including a pair of fifths, while Mollie Jepsen did so once. As for the U16 men, Team Canada representative Asher Jordan posted finishes of fourth (slalom) and sixth (giant slalom), while Kasper Woolley was seventh in the giant slalom. Lastly, for the U14 women, Arabella Ng, Gigi Kranjc and Maja Woolley all tied for ninth in the dual slalom, Kranjc was sixth in the giant slalom while Woolley was 10th, while Woolley was eighth in the slalom and Chloe Arrigoni was 11th.
Complete results are available at www.whistlercup.com.
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