Tchernetsky in midst of magical season 

Smart hits NorAm podium for first time

click to enlarge PHOTO BY KENNETH FUNG - Golden girl Sofia Tchernetsky has enjoyed a breakout season in 2016-17.
  • Photo by Kenneth Fung
  • Golden girl Sofia Tchernetsky has enjoyed a breakout season in 2016-17.

No matter where Sofia Tchernetsky travelled this season, she seemed to find herself on the podium.

After a sojourn in Europe and pair of NorAm Cup events under her belt, the 14-year-old is preparing for some gold-level events where she hopes to jump into the upper echelon of freestyle skiing.

Tchernetsky hit the podium at every European slopestyle event she attended, winning the pro women's event at the Mercedes-Benz Freestyle Ski Tour Fabulous Ruka 2017 in Finland and taking second in Europa Cup action at two events at St. Anton, Austria in January. Upon returning to North America, she won NorAm Cup events in Calgary and at Mount St. Louis Moonstone on consecutive weekends.

With unfavourable weather, especially in the Canadian events the past two weekends, Tchernetsky said she's been working hard to acclimatize to any condition.

"I'm most proud of myself for making it work any way in any weather. It's one thing to be a cool skier and do cool tricks, but it's another to have a trick you can pull out in any condition," she said. "If you still come home with the win because you're the last one standing in that weather, that's what matters."

Travelling Europe at such a young age, Tchernetsky feels she's receiving not only an athletic education, but picking up new languages and history as well. She feels like she's putting it all together to become the best she can be, especially on course.

"I've been absorbing like a sponge all these different skiing traditions," she said. "In Finland, they have much different ways of (performing) stylish tricks than even, say, in Austria or in Germany.

"It's been really amazing just to learn all these amazing cultures and to become an international skier."

While there's the odd competitor who's around her age, many of them are significantly older. The runner-up at this weekend's competition in Ontario, Emma Stevens, is seven years older while the third-place finisher, Megan Cressey, had her by three years.

"Occasionally, there are some girls around my age, which is always fun for me. Then we go paint our nails after, but generally, it's just me who's a little young," she said.

Tchernetsky wrapped her NorAm schedule this week, but will head back to Austria for the Spring Battle at Absolut Park — a gold-level event that will help her qualify for bigger events like the X Games.

"(In competition season), it's really hard to learn new tricks because we have to do the exact same run, or variations of it. You're doing the competition tricks," she said. "But after competition here, I'm going to have lots of days to put those new tricks to snow."

Also at Mount St. Louis Moonstone, Luke Smart hit his first NorAm Cup podium. The 17-year-old took third with a score of 83.50 to finish just behind Colin Bridger's 83.83, though winner Patrick Dew rolled to the win with an 88.83.

"I just had a tricky day. The qualifying day was pretty challenging with high winds, gusting winds so I was hyped to get over those challenges," he said. "There was no specific thing. I just had to link everything together in one run."

Next up for Smart will be the Canadian Open Tour event in Stoneham, Que. before he defends his home park at the Canadian Junior National Championships here in Whistler in April.

"Hopefully I'll be able to find some lines and do my best," he said.

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