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Norway defends Whistler Cup title

Ontario wrests U14 overall title from two-time champion Japan

Clenching all six U16 gold medals in hand when all was said and done, the Norwegians wrapped up a dominant weekend at Whistler Cup by hoisting the Nations' Cup.

Women's skier Marte Monsen won all three U16 races for a clean sweep. On the men's side, Wilhelm Normannseth had the chance to double the feat after winning the first two races. However, he was edged by countryman Kaspar Kindem and settled for second place in the final contest.

Norwegian head coach Ola Masdal was thrilled to earn the repeat as champions, especially in such golden fashion.

"It's always exciting to get on the top of the podium. We had a great year this year," Masdal said after the results were announced in Skier's Plaza on April 3. "We had some DNFs, but those who finished were basically on the top or on the podiums. That was great.

"It's my fourth year here at Whistler Cup and I think it's the first year we've done a sweep in the U16. It's exciting."

Team Ontario took home the U14 Nations' Cup, ending Japan's two-year run of dominance.

Masdal said Monsen has been skiing at a high level for much of the season and was able to carry it over to Canada for the Whistler Cup.

"She came from our nationals doing the same. She feels comfortable about winning. You've got to be comfortable about winning. You're not nervous. It's just another race," Masdal said. "It's a normal thing and then it's easier."

It was a dramatic turnaround, he said, as Monsen had to make her share of adjustments after an underwhelming Whistler Cup debut in 2015.

"She struggled big last year when the races got important and huge. We worked a little on her this year to calm her down when the event gets big," he said. "She's skiing really good and it's easier. Just do normal and normal is enough."

Speaking after her second win in the giant slalom on Saturday, Monsen said she was proud to work through some heavy snow to take the victory.

"I was thinking about skiing good and having a good time here in Canada. For sure, my coach helped me," she said. "Conditions were tough, but I like it when it's tough. I think it was fun... You need to fight all the way down. I'm a person who makes few mistakes and that's the person who wins, so I like wins like that."

In the final race, Monsen took the slalom win by blasting past Canadian Eloise Carle by 3.02 seconds and Norwegian teammate Bianca Bakke-Westhoff by 4.33 seconds. In the giant slalom, she prevailed with a two-run time of one minute, 54.57 seconds (1:54.57) to best Carle by 0.75 seconds and Japan's Yukino Hatanaka by 1.09 seconds. In the opening super-G, Monsen's showing of 1:15.32 stood up by 1.15 seconds over perennial bridesmaid Carle and by 1.27 seconds over Canadian Sierra Smith. WMSC's Ella Renzoni was also in the medal hunt, taking a time 1.61 seconds off of the winner to place fifth. The race was cut short because of conditions, as 29 of the 78 entrants did not start.

As for the men, Normannseth blazed down the super-G course in a time of 1:11.63 to edge out New Zealand's Ben Richards (1.33 seconds back) and Canada's Jamie Casselman (1.79 seconds back). WMSC competitor Myles Kowalczyk, meanwhile, hit the top 10 in seventh.

Normannseth then cruised to the slalom win with a combined 1:33.12 to best Casselman by 4.14 seconds and fellow Norwegian Kindem by 5.74 seconds. Kindem ended Normannseth's dominance by taking the giant slalom triumph by 0.88 seconds. Richards placed third, 1.40 seconds off the pace

"He likes to be dominant," Masdal said of Normannseth. "He likes to be in the spotlight."

After the super-G win, Normannseth said even though the conditions weren't necessarily perfect for his approach, he zoned in and tackled the challenge head on.

"I just focused on good skiing, my technique and not focusing on winning," he said. "It was very hard and fine... I've got quite long skis. I've got the World Cup skis with a very long radius, so it was quite hard. There were big turns."

At Sunday's awards, Cranbrook's Casselman, who was on the Canada 1 team, won the U16 Dave Murray Award while Ontario 1's Griffen Hanson took the U14 honour. As for the Nancy Greene Awards, Canada 1's Carle won the U16 recognition while Quebec 1's Jade Bonneville emerged as the U14 winner.

Casselman, in his fifth year at the Whistler Cup, said he's developed a calmer mindset over the years. It ultimately helped him perform consistently at a top level.

"I had a good mentality just to ski like I do in training," he said. "It worked out well."

Romanin leads WMSC challengers

Nathan Romanin was the closest the Whistler Mountain Ski Club got to earning a medal.

The 14-year-old punched above his weight, finishing no lower than 13th in any race. And he did it in his first year in the U16 age group, making him primed to rise onto the podium in 2017. Romanin took fourth in the slalom and 10th in the giant slalom.

Though giant slalom is more of Romanin's specialty than the slalom, he was more familiar with the warmer, stickier conditions than the rest of the field and made a move later in the day to finish just off the podium.

"I just felt really good right off the bat. Right when I woke up, I knew it was going to be a great day. I moved into seventh after the first run and I was very happy with that result. It made me want to push even more in the second run to see how far I could move up," he said. "After that second run, I slid into fourth place and that made me happy. It was a great day.

"A lot of the field had fallen and not finished, so that gave me a lot of room to attack."

And he'll have all summer to plot his final charge on the Whistler Cup field, seeking a medal when he returns next April. Still, he knows a lot can change in a year.

"With this sport, you can never get too confident," he said. "It definitely gave me a push to want to train more this summer. You can never stop learning and getting better."

Canadian U14 competitors strong

In the U14 slalom race, Bonneville led an all-Canuck podium, edging Ontario 1's Elizabeth Sullivan by 1.20 seconds and Ontario 2's Emma Charton by 1.23 seconds.

In the giant slalom, Ontario 1's Ashley Campbell scored win. Campbell posted a one-run time of 1:00.28 to edge out Quebec 1's Jade Bonneville by 0.15 seconds and Czech Republic's Karolina Kestlova by 0.33 seconds. She surprised even herself with the result.

"My run didn't feel so (good), but I was happy with my run afterwards," she said.

In Friday's opening dual slalom, Charton knocked off Chile's Emilia Aramburo in the finals while B.C. 1's Lauren Koper bested Campbell in the small final.

This is Campbell's second Whistler Cup, and now that she's among the older girls in the U14 age group, was a key component of helping her province to the Nations' Cup.

"Last year, I didn't have a good year. I DNFed most of my races, so I just wanted to keep going through the tough times," she said.

As for the men, Japan's Ohra Kimishima took the one-run giant slalom win with by 0.77 seconds over Chile's Nicolas Pirozzi and by 1.47 seconds over BC 1's Isaac Athans. The slalom race saw an all-Canadian podium as BC 1's Heiko Ihns snagged the one-run victory with a 46.32-second showing. Griffen Hanson of Ontario 1 was 1.13 seconds back and Quebec's Peter Noe was just a hundredth of a second behind Hanson. WMSC's Skylar Beauregard, on the BC 1 team, was seventh. His time was 1.85 seconds back of Ihns.

In the opening dual slalom, Argentina's Tiziano Gravier edged Pirozzi in the big final while Canadian John Profitt got past fellow Canuck Adam Oshanyk in the small final.

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