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Simon d'Artois wins World Cup halfpipe bronze in 'Snow Rodeo'

Fellow Canadian Brendan Mackay grabbed silver in Calgary, as did Rachael Karker on the women's side

Whistler's Simon d'Artois added a sixth FIS World Cup medal to his resume on Jan. 20 in Calgary, Alta. The two-time Canadian Olympian was clutch in his third and final run down the halfpipe at the "Snow Rodeo," earning bronze with an impressive score of 93 points. In doing so, he edged out two-time Olympic medallist Alex Ferreira of the United States, who had turned up the heat with a 92.50-point run.

“Alex had just gotten ahead of me, and the pressure was on! For my last run, I wanted to do a little more to show what I’m really capable of, and I managed to put together all the necessary elements to make it to the podium. I’m really happy!” said d’Artois, who finished 10th at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. The 30-year-old Blackcomb Freestyle Club alum may be entering the twilight of his career, having previously told Pique Newsmagazine that he doesn't expect to compete in the 2026 Olympics. 

d'Artois, of course, wrote his name into the record books in 2015 as the first Canadian man to win an X Games ski halfpipe event.

Homefield success 

Fellow Canadian national teamer and Calgary native Brendan Mackay gave the home fans something to cheer about, securing a silver medal with a 94.50-point effort that made him leader in the clubhouse after the first two runs.

That changed when Jon Sallinen of Finland, who is known for accidentally colliding with a cameraman at last year's Olympics, threw down an eye-opening 96 points to claim his first career World Cup victory. In trying to outdo the Finnish athlete, Mackay went for a double-cork 1620 on his final run but was unable to land it cleanly. 

Nonetheless, the 25-year-old Beijing Olympian can be proud of a world-class effort one month after he also placed second at the World Cup event in Copper Mountain, Colo. 

"I’m really happy with my result!" said Mackay. "There were several good runs tonight and Jon [Sallinen] put the pressure on at the very last second. His skiing was just incredible.

“You always hope to be able to do a victory lap at the end, but when I saw Jon’s run, I knew I’d have to do even better to stay in the running. I was a bit nervous, but I got myself fired up and did my very best. I increased the level of difficulty, but I slid out doing one maneuver in the middle. Still, a silver medal is a great way to end the day!”

Calgarians Noah Bowman (80.50 points) and Dylan Marineau (56.75 points) also advanced to the men’s final to finish eighth and tenth, respectively.

Karker vs. Gu

On the women's side, 2022 Olympic bronze medallist Rachael Karker found herself going head-to-head with the reigning Olympic halfpipe queen, Eileen Gu of China. Gu dropped the hammer right away with a 95-point first run, claiming her ninth career win on the circuit and her sixth in halfpipe.

Karker pulled out all the stops in an attempt to defeat her rival, but was unable to get ahead. After two unsuccessful runs, the 25-year-old from Guelph, Ont. put it all down with 89 points on her final attempt.

“I really gave it my all at the end and I’m happy with my performance. As I came down, I knew it wasn’t clean enough to beat Eileen, but I’m super proud to have improved my score each time. Also, the crowd was great, which was really nice,” said Karker a few minutes after the competition.

Gu is a rare breed of skier who competes in all three freestyle disciplines—halfpipe, big air and slopestyle—and excels in each one of them. At just 19 years old, she has a gold medal in big air and a silver in slopestyle to go along with her halfpipe gold from the Beijing Olympics. Gu was born and raised in San Francisco, Ca. but chooses to represent China, her mother's native country.

"It's been 11 and a half months since I've competed and coming out of the Olympics, obviously it's difficult to follow that up pressure-wise, but I think it's been so much fun," she said in an interview with the Canadian Press.

"I've been rediscovering all this love that I have for the sport. I love it more now than ever. Also, juggling skiing with my first year of college is a brand new challenge this year. I'm just trying to do what I love and enjoy the whole process, and not put too much pressure on myself."

Hanna Faulhaber of the U.S. (77.25 points) rounded out the podium, finishing just ahead of Calgarian Amy Fraser, who placed fourth with 74.75.

The only other Canadian in the final was Dillan Glennie of Courtenay, B.C. who finished seventh with 67.50 points. Two more Calgarians, Emma Morozumi and Vienna Biletsky, placed 13th and 15th respectively in qualifying. 

The athletes will not have to wait long before returning to the halfpipe. They will be back on the slopes on Friday afternoon, hoping to secure a spot in the final on Jan. 21. Visit the CBC Sports website for more details and viewing options. 

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