Ken Read, the president of Alpine Canada Alpin stood near the back of the Sierra Wireless Whistler Cup awards ceremony on Sunday, smiling as the days medals were presented.
As the head of alpine racing in Canada, Read takes a special interest in the next generation of skiers. If the results from the Whistler Cup are any indication things are looking good Canadian made 23 top-15 results, plus three podiums. One racer, Richard Long of Collingwood, Ontario, made event history by becoming the first Canadian to win two gold medals in the Whistler Cup.
"We always watch this event closely because this is where the next generation of World Cup skiers is going to come from," said Read.
"This year we got more involved in the Whistler Cup by hosting a national training camp for some of the skiers. We cant take credit for the results, obviously the kids are getting some good training with their clubs, but we hope it helped them in some way, maybe gave them a little boost before the race. Its something we believe there is value in, and well be offering it every year."
Some of Canadas top results were from skiers who were named to Team Canada and participated in the Iris Team Canada Selection Camp. The camp was held in Whistler, with national team skiers like Allison Forsyth, Jeff Hume and Britt Janyk, as well as national team coaches Mark Sharp, Matt Kerr, Rob Boyd and Dave Ellis.
Some 350 skiers representing 17 nations took part in the 13 th annual Whistler Cup. Although the opening K2 (age 13-14) super G was cancelled after 43 cm of new snow fell on the course for Friday morning, organizers and volunteers put in a huge amount of work to clear the course of new snow on Saturday and Sunday to get the slalom and giant slalom events off the ground.
For the second year the Norwegian team claimed the overall K1 and K2 titles, as well as the overall team trophy for the third straight year, with athletes on the podium in every event.
But if Norway was the dominant team, then the Canadians were the biggest surprise of the weekend, claiming three medals and several top-10 results. Last year the Canadians cracked the top-10, but with no podium finishes.
Day One Results
Saturdays races got off to a late start with another 20 cm of snow on the trails, but in the end organizers were able to give close to 350 K1s and K2s a race course.
In the K1 (age 11-12) giant slalom, Richard Long of the Georgian Peaks Ski Club in Ontario placed first out of 86 starters with a time of 53.13 seconds, just 0.06 seconds ahead of Emrick Marafico of Italy. Shinya Miyamoto of Japan was third in 53.34.
It was Longs second year in the Whistler Cup; he finished eighth in the K1 category last year. He credited the Iris camp for his result.
"There I learned to let my body take over my mind and to view the race as a normal training session," said Long.
Long wasnt the only Canadian in the top-15. He was joined by the WMSCs Ford Swette in fifth, Tyler Mackenzie of Sun Peaks in eighth, Trevor Philp of Banff in 12 th , Patrick Taillefer of Quebec in 14 th and Willy Konantz of the WMSC in 15 th .
(Due to the large number of participants, this article only includes skiers in the top-15. For complete results visit www.bcalpine.com).
In the womens K1 GS two Norwegian skiers topped the podium, with Kristine Haugen of Norway finishing in 53.63, more than half a second faster than her teammate Mia Merete Moen. Martina Dubovska of Slovakia was third in 54.80.
The top Canadian was Brenley Nella of the Georgian Peaks Ski Club, who finished eighth in 55.65. Taylor Green from the WMSC was 13 th while Rachel Rennic of Onatrio was 14 th and Gabriela Baers of Kananaskis 15 th .
While the K1s raced a GS, the K2 skiers were busy racing a slalom.
In the mens race, Colby Granstrom of the U.S. claimed the gold medal in 1:16.32, 0.39 seconds ahead of Manuel Wieser of Austria.
Mathieu Routhier of Mont-Orford, Quebec took the bronze medal in 1:16.91, crediting his performance to the Iris camp. Frederic Couchard of Quebec was 12 th and Kelby Halbert of Ontario 13 th .
The womens K2 slalom went to Norways Thea Grosvold, who was making her third Whistler Cup appearance. She finished in 1:20.44 well ahead of silver medalist Nikola Galfyova of Slovakia, who finished in 1:22.16.
The top Canadians were Maude Longtin of the Garceau Ski Club in eighth, Alexa Birdgeneau from Alberta in 10 th , Erin Mielzynski of Ontario in 11 th and the WMSCs Calindy Ramsden in 15 th .
Day Two Results
The K1s and K2s switched courses on Sunday, with the K1s racing slalom and K2s taking on the GS.
Richard Long won the K1 slalom, becoming the first Canadian ever to win two gold medals in the Whistler Cup. His time of 1:07.29 after two runs was 0.43 seconds faster than Aleksander Kilde of Norway. Shunsuke Ogihara was third, netting Japans second medal of the weekend.
Although he was happy with back-to-back wins, Long is already looking down the road to the World Cup and the Olympics.
"I did pretty well in my (Ontario) division this year, but this was good because I got to compare myself to the rest of the world," he said.
A win on Saturday took the pressure off on Sunday, but Long said he went into the race expecting good results.
"(After Saturday) knew I could be right up there with the Americans and Europeans if I had a good run," he said. "I thought I could get on the podium, but I wasnt expecting to win both events."
Longs goal is to one day make the national team, he hopes in time to compete in the Winter Games in 2014. "This (Whistler Cup) result gives me a lot of confidence," he said.
Other Canadians in the top-15 include Tyler Mackenzie in sixth, Andrew Solomon in 12 th and Ford Swette in 13 th .
The womens K1 slalom went to Mia Merete Moen of Norway, followed by her teammate Kristine Haugen with times of 1:12.11 and 1:13.56 respectively. Vanessa Berther of the U.S. was third in 1:13.87, followed by teammates Madeline Wiltgen and Lindsey Anderson.
Whistlers Madison McLeish finished sixth, the top result posted by any of the Canadian women.
"Im not totally happy with my runs, I know I could have done better," said McLeish.
The previous day McLeish was the first racer in the GS, and slid off course when the soft snow around a gate gave way. She played it a little safer on Sunday, but knows she had some room to move. "Today (the conditions) were a lot better, but I didnt attack it enough. Still, sixth place is great and anywhere in the top-10 is good."
Next year McLeish will be a K2, and hopes to be on the podium in next years Whistler Cup.
McLeish also won the Nancy Greene award for the top Canadian K1 result. Gabriela Baers and the WMSCs Sarah Elliott were 11 th and 12 th for Canada, while Anna Prokofeva of Grouse was 14 th .
In the K2 GS, the Italian team picked up first and second place with Antonio Fantino and Mattia Casse crossing the line in 57.38 and 57.72 respectively. Hyeon-tae Kim of Korea was third in 58.13.
The only Canadian to crack the top-15 was Mathieu Routhier in ninth.
In the womens race, Thea Grosvold claimed her second gold medal of the weekend in 58.85. Stefanie Kroll of Austria was second in 59.13 and Nikola Galfyova of Slovakia third in 59.53.
The top Canadian was Heather Beatty of the Georgian Peaks club in ninth place. Erin Mielzynski was 11 th and Catherine Morel of Quebec was 12 th .
Canada finished third among all nations behind Norway and the U.S.