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Whistler Nordics alum Davies starts NorAm season with U20 win

Sports briefs: Canadians shine at ski-cross opener

Joe Davies is adjusting well to his new home.

The Pembertonian moved to Canmore, Alta. for this coming cross-country ski season, and in his first NorAm race with the Foothills Nordic Ski Club, Davies scored a 16th-place finish in the 10-kilometre interval start classic event in the open men's category on Dec. 7. He was also the top under-20 men's finisher. Whistler's Michael Murdoch, meanwhile, took 55th overall and seventh in under-20.

Davies said everything clicked in his favourite discipline.

"That was definitely my best race. I've always liked the 10-km. The 10-km classic is my ideal race," he said. "As soon as I started, I realized how good I was feeling and just went from there."

Davies said that being an interval start, he couldn't tell his standing from one moment to the next, but was at least able to receive regular updates as he completed each lap.

"I was getting splits off of other people from my coach," he said. "The first lap, I heard I was tied for first in my category, then I came through again and heard I had 20 seconds on second and when I came around again, I had 45 seconds."

In the 15-km interval start free race on Dec. 8, Davies was 37th overall and fourth in under-20, while Murdoch was 57th overall and 10th among under-20s.

Davies said the conditions throughout the weekend were favourable to good racing.

"We've got a fair amount of snow. It was quite cold, at least for the skate race on Sunday it was minus-15," he said. "It was cold, but it made for pretty fast conditions. It was still fairly icy in the Saturday race, so it was quick out there."

In the two months that he's been in Alberta, Davies has adjusted quickly, explaining that he feels like he's right at home in the Foothills club, which welcomed him straightaway.

"It's definitely been an advantage. It's been a really nice change and it's definitely helped my training a lot to have a new team with a bunch of fast people," he said. "The few people that I was skiing with in Whistler were all going their own ways, whether that was to school or to a new team. After graduating, I knew that if I wanted to keep skiing, I had to find somewhere new to train and this team has some of the best athletes in Canada."

Davies' season will continue with a race south of the border at Sun Valley. He's also eying qualifying for the FIS Nordic Junior Cross-Country World Ski Championships in Oberwiesenthal, Germany from Feb. 29 to March 7.

Davies also plans to return to Whistler next month for the 2020 Western Canadian Championships from Jan. 16 to 19.

Canadians shine at ski-cross opener

Canadian ski-cross athletes got off to a glorious start to the 2019-20 FIS World Cup ski-cross season at Val Thorens, France on the weekend, managing at least a medal in all four races.

The men were especially strong, as Kevin Drury won the season opener on Dec. 6, topping France's Youri Duplessis Kergomard and Switzerland's Ryan Regez for the win. Five other Canadians were among the top dozen, including: Kris Mahler (sixth); Carson Cook (eighth); Christopher Del Bosco (ninth); Zach Belczyk (10th) and Brady Leman (12th).

It was Mahler's turn for gold on Dec. 7, as he edged out Frenchmen Bastien Midol and Jean Frederic Chapuis for the victory. Other Canadians in the top 30 were: Drury (fifth); Leman (sixth); Del Bosco (18th); Cook (26th); and Belczyk (27th).

The women's team started out strong as well, taking a pair of medals on Dec. 6. Courtney Hoffos and India Sherret were second and third, finishing behind only Sweden's Sandra Naeslund. Whistler's Marielle Thompson made the big final, placing just off the podium in fourth, while Zoe Chore (seventh), Brittany Phelan (eighth), and Abby McEwan (25th) all made the top 30.

On Dec. 7, Hoffos appeared on the podium again, taking third behind winner Fanny Smith of Switzerland and Naeslund. Sherret took fourth, Chore was eighth, Thompson ninth, Phelan 10th and McEwan 25th.

Kingsbury wins in Finland

Canadian moguls legend Mikaël Kingsbury extended his record for most FIL World Cup wins at the 2019-20 season opener at Ruka, Finland on Dec. 7.

Kingsbury won his 57th career contest, scoring a 90.80 to hold off Japan's Ikuma Horishima and Sweden's Walter Wallberg.

Other Canadians included Kerrian Chunlaud in sixth, Laurent Dumais in 15th, Gabriel Dufresne in 19th, Elliot Vaillancourt in 38th and Pemberton's Brenden Kelly in 48th.

Justine Dufour-Lapointe was the top Canadian among women, finishing in sixth while France's Perrine Laffont topped Japan's Anri Kawamura and Australia's Britteny Cox for the win. Chloe Dufour-Lapointe, meanwhile, was 13th. Whistler's Sofiane Gagnon did not compete due to injury.

Kripps opens season with pair of bronzes

Justin Kripps brought home a pair of bronze medals from the first BMW IBSF World Cup races of the season at Lake Placid, N.Y. on the weekend.

In the first of two two-man bobsleigh races on Dec. 7, Kripps teamed up with Benjamin Coakwell to take third, 0.26 seconds behind Germans Johannes Lochner and Florian Bauer. Another German duo, Francesco Friedrich and Thorsten Margis, placed second.

The next day, Kripps worked with Cameron Stones to a similar result, finishing 0.57 seconds behind Friedrich and Alexander Schuller while Lochner and Christian Rasp took second.

"It was a good day. I think the first start we had a bit of a headwind because we were quite slow and it wasn't what I expected so we had to play some catch up," Kripps said in a Dec. 8 release.

"Yesterday I didn't think I had a great draw, and it was actually the same thing today. But the luck of the draw is how it goes so I just focused on being consistent."

In the women's bobsleigh, Christine de Bruin started the year with a fifth-place finish alongside Dawn Edith Richardson Wilson, finshing just 0.02 seconds off the podium and 0.46 seconds behind champions Kaillie Humphries and Lauren Gibbs of the United States. It was Humphries' first World Cup race since being granted her release from the Bobsleigh Canada Skeleton this fall.

In skeleton, Mirela Rahneva was just 0.07 seconds out of the medals, taking fourth. Rahneva was 0.78 seconds back of winner Jacqueline Loelling of Germany, while Austria's Janine Flock was second and Germany's Tina Hermann took third.

As for the men, Kevin Boyer was the lone Canadian to get two runs, eventually placing 17th. Germany's Axel Jungk held off Latvia's Martins Dukurs and Russia's Alexander Tretiakov for the victory.

O'Rourke ties for 44th in Arizona

Whistler's Padraic O'Rourke cracked the top 50 at the PGA of Canada Head Professional Championship in Arizona from Dec. 2 to 5.

Competing at The Wigwam in Litchfield Park, Ariz., the Fairmont Chateau Whistler pro posted a three-round seven-over, 28 strokes back of winner Gordon Burns of Ontario, who himself was seven shots ahead of runner-up Philip Jonas of B.C.

O'Rourke, who also tied for 33rd in the low club professional contest, found consistency throughout the week, shooting a 77 in the first round before tallying back-to-back 73s.