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Snowboarding the Canadian way

Canada tops nation standings with five world championship medals

Justin Lamoureux, just minutes after locking the silver medal in the FIS Snowboard World Championship McDonald’s halfpipe, had strong praise for his teammates and what the Canadian Snowboard Federation accomplished last week on home turf.

"I think we showed that we’re one of the top teams in the world, as good as any team out there. Hopefully that will mean more funding and support, so we can continue to be one of the top teams," he said.

Canada finished the world championships with five medals: two gold medals by Jasey-Jay Anderson, in the parallel slalom and parallel GS; a silver by Francois Boivin and a bronze by Maëlle Ricker in the snowboardcross; and Lamoureux’s silver in halfpipe. While some will remember the rain that dogged the world championships, the medals will have a much more long-term impact on the Canadian program, both financially and emotionally.

Women’s halfpipe

After a soggy day of qualifiers, the halfpipe finals got underway under the lights on Saturday night at the newly built facility on Blackcomb. With a crowd numbering in the thousands lining the pipe, the top-12 men and top-eight women faced off with only the best of two runs counting.

From the beginning of the finals it was clear that only a perfect run would have the opportunity to win a medal – any scrubbed landings or missed spins were costly.

In the women’s competition, Manuela Pesko of Switzerland got off to a strong lead with a score of 41.9 for a consistent run with a good mix of airs and grabs up top, and back-to-back spins near the bottom. Doriane Vidal of France was ranked second, and Tricia Byrnes of the U.S. was third.

In the second round, Vidal pulled out all of the stops to lay down the biggest run of the day, with spins and grabs pushing 10 feet out of the frozen pipe. Her last two tricks were a huge 720, followed by an inverted crippler 180, both of which she landed perfectly.

Pesko had a chance to beat Vidal’s score of 45.7, but only managed to score a 43.4 on her second run. Vidal took the gold, her third consecutive women’s world championship title after wins in 2001 and 2003.

"I knew Manuela’s score and I knew I had to have a good run," Vidal said. "I wasn’t happy with my landings on the first run. I’ve been training well, but I didn’t do what I was training. The second run was a lot better for me, I made all my grabs and landings," said Vidal, who was sporting a graze on her chin after falling earlier this week.

With all of the young riders coming up the ranks behind her, Vidal says she has had to train hard to learn new tricks and get the kind of air you need these days to win a contest.

"There are so many good snowboarders coming up now, and they are going so huge. I had to learn a lot to stay in the competitions, and trained really hard to keep up. At first it was something I had to do, but I found I really enjoyed learning new tricks and to go out and land them in a competition."

Hannah Teter finished third overall with a score of 35.9, opting for a run that was safer than her best.

"I took it easy out there today, that’s what I told my coaches going into this," she said. "I didn’t have a very good first run, so all I wanted was to have a better second run, and land everything, I wasn’t even going for a medal."

According to Teter, she’s has been focussing more on the upcoming X-Games. Still, she was happy to finish third.

"Seeing how I finished kind of makes me wish I took it a little more seriously, but there’s always the next contest."

None of the Canadian women qualified in the top-eight, but all four competitors placed in the top-16, making them eligible to apply for Sport Canada funding. Mercedes Nicoll was 10 th , Dominique Vallée 11th, Maëlle Ricker 13th, and Anne-Marie Gauthier 16 th .

In fact, seven out of eight Canadians qualified for that funding, including Lemay, Lipscomb and Lamoureux, which is essentially a monthly grant totalling up to $20,000 a year.

Men’s halfpipe

In the men’s competition, Anti Autti of Finland established himself as the man to beat after a strong switch start and a routine that included a 900, a pair of 720s and a pair of inverted spinning tricks.

The Canadian men were represented by Crispin Lipscomb and Lamoureux, who qualified second and third for the finals behind Domu Narita of Japan. Hugo Lemay of Beauport, Quebec, just missed the cut, finishing in 13 th place.

Lamoureux was solid up top, starting his running with a huge backside 720, before matching Autti on every air in terms of amplitude and the number of spins, but missed a little of Autti’s style with the grabs. At the end of the first round Autti was sitting in the lead with a 47.7, Lamoureux in second with a 44.6 and Kim Christiansen in third with a 42.4.

Several other riders, including Whistler’s Crispin Lipscomb, Domu Narita of Japan, and Jan Michealis of Germany had medal calibre runs marked down after missed landings.

With the bar set high by Autti, the riders held nothing back on their second runs. With fans cheering every trick, the riders went a little bigger, landing advanced tricks like switch rodeo 720s and switch backside 900s. Unfortunately the landings weren’t there, and nobody would challenge the top three for their spots in the rankings.

Lipscomb had another solid run, but, as in his first run, stumbled on his last trick. He would end the day in ninth.

Lamoureux also challenged Autti, until he scrubbed a landing near the bottom. Christiansen attempted a double back flip on his last air that might have put him over the top, but didn’t land it cleanly enough to count.

"I knew if I could have done what I did in my first run again, a little bigger and a little cleaner, I’d have a shot at (the gold), but it didn’t work out that way. I’m glad I went for it on the second run," said Lamoureux.

"Crispin was awesome in his runs, and I was with the crowd hoping he’d land that last trick and maybe get on the podium. He’ll be back, you can’t keep that guy down. I’m just glad one of us was able to make it onto the podium."

As for seven out of eight Canadian halfpipe athletes landing in the top-16, Lamoureux could only shake his head. "There’s so much depth in the program, which is only going to make it better. It always helps when you have people behind you pushing you, and rooting for you at the same time. We’re all friends."

Big Air

In the world championship big air contest on Friday, two Canadians made it to the finals in the top-10 – Brad Martin of Ancaster, Ontario and Whistler’s Neil Connolly.

After a poor landing on his first jump, Martin attempted a 1080 on his second try, and almost landed it cleanly. He settled for eighth place.

Connolly, who ranked second on the World Cup big air circuit last season, was in sixth after the first round, and attempted to better that with one of the biggest switch backside 900s of the day. He went a little sideways off the take-off, and although he salvaged the landing it wasn’t as clean as he wanted.

"It was an awesome contest, Brad was really solid. I overshot my landing a bit, but I’m happy. It would have had to have taken something pretty big to upset the Finns today, they were really on."

The win went to Anti Autti of Finland with a switch 900, the first of his two gold medals at the FIS Snowboard World Championships. Matevz Petak of Slovenia was second by four-tenths of a point, which he accredited to landing a clean switch rodeo 720.

"Everybody was doing nines (900 spins) today, so I thought I would do something different," said Petak. "It’s not the hardest trick, but I made it really big and landed it cleanly.

"You can’t win with that trick every week, there are so many good riders. Anytime you can get on the podium is good."

Andreas Jakobsson of Sweden was third.

Lasting impact

At the conclusion of the world championships, the Canadian team had five medals. The Austrian team had five medals as well, but Canada still ranked higher because of the number of gold and silver medals.

Tom McIllfaterick, the CEO for the Canadian Snowboard Federation, was ecstatic with the results.

"We’re obviously really thrilled by how the team performed throughout the championships, but it was also great to see the athletes really come together as a team, with the athletes supporting each other," he said. "I think they were feeding off each other’s energy and the results, you could feel that there was a lot of positive momentum there, a lot of confidence in each other and in themselves."

All told, 10 national team athletes qualified for Sport Canada funding, which McIllfaterick says will make it easier on the athletes.

"This is their money that they can use to help cover expenses like their rent, and I think it will make a difference. We do hold training camps in the summer, but sometimes the athletes can’t make it because they have to work. Well now maybe they will be able to spend that time riding, getting even better.

"I think the world championships were a real testament to the strength of the program, to the level of riding in this country, and to the efforts of our coaches and staff. And we’re really only just getting started. I mean, first in the world – you have to be happy with that."




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