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Whistler Freeride Club sends 14 athletes to Nor Am Championships

The North American Championships in Big Sky, Mont. will feature the 150 best junior freeriders in North America

After dominating the field at the Junior Freeride National event in Whistler two weeks ago, 14 members of the Whistler Freeride Club (WFC) made the cut for the 2022 IFSA North American Championships at Big Sky, Mont., this week.

But saying the WFC dominated in Whistler is a bit of an understatement. The club’s riders swept all of the skiing podiums in each age group. The WFC’s 12-14 women took the top six spots, with Brooke Hemstead coming out on top, and the 12-14 men took the top four spots with Carden Tomic leading the way.

In the 15-18 categories, the women took the top three spots, while the men took the top six. Leading the way for the men and women were Marcus Goguen and Drea Dimma, who each picked up their third competition wins of the season.

“I’m really proud. These kids are unreal, they’re truly superheroes in the sport,” said WFC head coach Derek Foose. “And I think they are kind of rising up to the Whistler way. This town has produced so many great athletes in so many sports over so many generations that they just seem to know how to bring it when it matters. And for a bunch of them they actually punched their tickets to the North America Championships with their results in that event which was very cool.”

With 14 local skiers heading to the IFSA Nor Am Championships, which run April 6 to 10, the WFC accounts for nearly 10 per cent of the entire 150-athlete field. Among that field, both Dimma and Goguen are going in as favourites to contend for the top spot once again, with Dimma being the top-ranked female skier in North America and Goguen the second-ranked male skier.

“I was really stoked that I got a good place because I needed another good nationals result to make it to Nor Ams, and now I’m sitting in first-place overall in North America,” said Dimma. “[Being first] is a little stressful, it’s a little nerve-racking but I’m really excited. Being first overall, you kind of want to keep that spot—you don’t want anyone to take it over, you know?

“It kind of gives me a lot of pressure to do good and make sure I ski to my standards or what people think I should ski like, so that might stress me out a little bit. But I think it also gives me some confidence knowing I’m ranked first going in.”

With none of the WFC athletes having been to a Nor Am Champs event in the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’re essentially going in blind without knowing the level of competition they’ll be facing, according to Foose, who believes the competition will be stronger than anything his skiers have faced yet this year.

“Big Sky is notoriously rocky, so I think it’s going to be quite a different sort of snow and mountain situation than we are used to here, which is exciting and also it’s a little nerve-racking going into a new resort that you have never skied at and competing there,” he said. “And for sure the field is going to be really strong, skill-wise. It’s the best athletes in North America, so everybody who has made it into that event is awesome and we usually go into it knowing who the big players are, but at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter because the kids need to pick their line and ski it to their ability and if they do that then I’d say we have a pretty good chance of success.”

However, when asked about his expectations about the competition level, Goguen wasn’t sure it would be much tougher than what he faced all year while competing with his friends at the WFC.

“There’s obviously going to be more competition, but I wouldn’t say that it’s going to be better competition than we’ve had all year. I’d say, Whistler Freeride Club and the Whitewater (Freeride Team) kids have definitely been pushing the sport,” said Goguen. “I’ve seen a couple videos and stuff from the American competitions and not to put it down but I don’t think they’ve had as much progression this year, but we’ll find out at Nor Ams. But, yeah, I think it’s going to be some good competition for sure. So it’s exciting and we’re never going to know until we get out there.”

Obviously, both Dimma and Goguen—and all the other WFC athletes for that matter—are looking to land on the top spot of the podium at Big Sky. But for a select few of the athletes, there is an additional goal on the line this week. Finishing the year as one of the top-ranked skiers in Canada (top two for the women and top four for the men) would qualify them for next year’s Freeride Junior World Championships, which is something both Dimma and Goguen have their eyes set on.

“My goal is definitely to secure the top spot in North America. And I want to try to win the actual competition there, too,” said Goguen, who at 17 has one year left of eligibility for the Junior Worlds.

“If I make it to Junior Worlds next year, I think I would go. And then I just wouldn’t compete in any other junior competitions. I would probably just try to lock in a whole bunch of filming and stuff and do that.”

Moving on from this year, regardless of if they make the cut for Junior Worlds, both Dimma and Goguen are hoping to make a career out of skiing and hopefully one day follow in the footsteps of former WFC riders like Cooper Bathgate and Olivia McNeill and compete in the Freeride World Tour.

“I hope I can make a career out of skiing, because it’s something I really like to do, and I’m really hoping to eventually make it to the World Tour—that’s my goal,” said Dimma, who was inspired by watching McNeill land on this year’s FWT podium.

“I thought it was so cool. She’s always been just an amazing skier and I know that hopefully I can get to that level eventually. But yeah, it’s just crazy to see someone that was in [the WFC] make it to the world tour because that’s like really big.”