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Whistler athletes make strong showing at B.C. Winter Games

Alpine skiers win zone title It was an exhausting three days for the 14 Whistler athletes who took part in the B.C. Winter Games at Port Alberni last weekend, but a worthwhile experience nonetheless.

Alpine skiers win zone title

It was an exhausting three days for the 14 Whistler athletes who took part in the B.C. Winter Games at Port Alberni last weekend, but a worthwhile experience nonetheless.

More than 1,460 athletes and almost 600 coaches, managers and officials took part this year, representing eight different competitive zones in 21 sports. The Whistler athletes represented Zone 5 Vancouver-Squamish in five different events.

Whistler councillors acknowledged the achievements before their regular meeting on Monday, with Mayor Hugh O’Reilly encouraging the young athletes to aim high.

"2010 is only six years away, so dream a big dream," he said.

The majority of Whistler athletes took part in the alpine skiing events, with slalom, giant slalom and team dual glalom categories. Only K1 level skiers, aged 11 and 12, were allowed to participate.

The Zone 5 team took the dual glalom gold, combining individual times in the slalom and giant slalom, with Whistler athletes leading the way.

In the women’s events, Whistler’s Brynne Benbow led the way with a gold medal in the slalom on Saturday and another gold in the giant slalom the following day.

"I was happy because the slalom is usually not my best event, I’m better in the GS," said Benbow, 12. "I like to ski really round turns, and that’s how they set the course."

Benbow was wearing bib number two in the races, and as a result she had to watch more than 35 other skiers come down the course after her own runs.

"I didn’t like going second, but it was fine as soon as I was on the course," she said. "At the bottom I was nervous. Two of my friends are really good skiers as well, and I was nervous to see what their times were."

In the slalom, nobody came close to catching Benbow’s time of 34.42 seconds. Maelle Bergeron of Penticton was second in 35.39 and Rachel Cohen of Kimberley and Kelsi Francisty of Duncan tied for third with times of 36.04.

Benbow is the youngest of three sisters, and both Kayla and Kendall have moved on to the B.C. Ski Team and national competitions. Brynne says it’s cool to have sisters to follow in the sport.

"I really look up to them a lot. (Older sister Kayla) was a ski racer when I was six years old, and I used to watch her, so it’s pretty cool to know that they’re watching us now," said Benbow.

Also from Whistler, Madison McLeish was 10 th , Maddi Podborski 19 th and Nancy Bayly 35 th .

Whistler’s Ian Morrison also picked up the gold in the men’s slalom with a time of 34.45 seconds, edging out Jasper Smith of Victoria, 34.55, and Ian Deans of Winfield, 34.58.

In the giant slalom the following day, Benbow’s 57.72 was more than a second faster that Maelle Bergeron’s time of 58.86. Nancy Bayly earned a bronze medal, just one one-hundredth of a second back of Bergeron. Madison McLeish finished fourth in 1:00.16, and Maddi Podborski was 31 st .

All of the members of the Zone 5 team received gold medals for the top combined time.

Other members of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club were successful at the B.C. Winter Games.

Vancouver’s Alex Binks, Isaac Penn and Ryan Ptolemy were 12 th , 20 th and 21 st respectively in the boys GS for Zone 5.

Michael Cadman of Anmore and Kyle Oser of Richmond competed for Fraser Valley, finishing 30 th and 38 th in the boy’s GS.

Heidi Mah competed for Fraser Valley, finishing 15 th in the GS. Katei Self of Vancouver was 20 th in the GS and 26 th in the slalom.

In gymnastics, Niki Sadler and Frances Moody from the Whistler Gymnastics Club were part of the Zone 5 Level 3 Team. Both Sadler and Moodly are new to Level 3, and this is the first year that Whistler has ever been able to enter gymnastic athletes into the Games.

In the all-around rankings, Niki Sadler finished 19 th and Frances Moody 24 th out of 30 athletes.

"They were awesome," said Whistler Gymnastics program director Tami Ross, who accompanied the girls to the Games. "They were really in it, in every event. Girls who train ten hours a week really can’t compete against full-time athletes with full-time gyms who are training six days a week, but they were really good out there, and showed they belong in this division."

The Whistler Figure Skating Club also took two athletes to the Games.

Denise Begg-Smith, competing in the Pro-Novice category, finished fourth overall out of 20 competitors. Caleigh Derpak, competing in the same division, was 10 th .

Nadine Crowe was the only Whistler girl to compete in the cross-country skiing competition. In the Individual Midget Girls race, Crowe was eighth out of 21 competitors, and the fastest girl from Zone 5. She also competed in the four-by-two kilometre relay, finishing seventh overall.

The Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club entered a few athletes as well. Pemberton’s Emily Higgins, who was representing Zone 5, was fifth in the 14-15 age group for aerials, second in dual moguls and fourth in moguls.

Keltie Hicks, who was competing for the Fraser Valley zone, was third in the 12-13 age group in aerials, first in dual moguls and second in moguls.

Vancouver’s Devon Krainer, who was competing with Zone 5, was seventh in the age 12-13 aerials, fifth in dual moguls and fourth in moguls.

New to the Games this year were the Street Sprints, an exhibition sport created to generate interest in the sliding sports, luge, bobsled and skeleton for 2010. Four Whistler athletes, two boys and two girls, took part in this event which involved pushing a 250 pound (113 kg) cart 30 metres before jumping on board to cross the finish line. There were boys, girls and co-ed competitions.

"It was impressive to see how well the athletes worked together," said Todd Allison of the Telus Whistler Sport Centre and the Street Sprints co-ordinator. "At this young age they definitely have potential in this, and other sports."

Whistler’s Alex Overbeck and Jenna Romanin took the bronze medal in the women’s group. Mike McCarthy and Matt Hernandez of Whistler also participated.

Highlights from the B.C. Winter Games will be shown on Global Television at 6:30 p.m., March 8.