Experience counts in Canadian ski championships 

Whistler’s Risler very competitive

Mont Orford, Quebec – After a season of successes and close calls on the World Cup and Nor-Am racing circuits, Canada’s alpine racers went head to head with each other at the Pontiac GMC Canadian Championships at Mont Sainte-Anne, Quebec from March 23 to 28.

Melanie Turgeon of Beauport, Quebec, showed why she was the top-ranked Canadian on the World Cup circuit this season with an early gold medal in the downhill. Anne-Marie Lefrancois finished less than half a second back to take the silver medal, while Sara-Maude Boucher of St. Denis de Brompton, Quebec, earned her first Canadian Championship medal with a third place performance.

National Junior Team members Kelly Vanderbeek of Kitchener, Ontario, and Christina Risler of Whistler finished fourth and fifth respectively.

It was Turgeon’s eighth Championship title, with two in the super-G, three in the giant slalom, one in the slalom, and, after last weekend, one downhill. The 23 year old offered her success as living proof that Canada’s young skiers do have a future to look forward to on the international circuit.

"I hope the young racers are saying ‘we were racing against them not too long ago and look where they are now’," said Turgeon. "This will hopefully inspire them to say ‘yes, this is possible’, to work hard, be serious and be successful."

Lefrancois said she was happy with the silver, but wished she came a little closer to Turgeon on the time sheet.

She got her chance on Sunday (March 25) when she edged past Turgeon by a mere 0.09 seconds to claim the super-G title and her first Canadian gold medal. Whistler’s Christina Risler was third.

Nanaimo’s Allison Forsyth, 22, won her fifth consecutive giant slalom national title on March 28, and her eighth national title to make the record books. Genevieve Simard of Val Morin, Quebec, was second, and Anna Prchal of Outremont, Quebec, was third.

The men’s downhill on March 24 was delayed by a snowstorm and eventually had to be called because of the rapidly deteriorating conditions. Only the first 49 competitors got to ski, but the race was still declared official.

Rossland’s Kevin Wert, a giant at 106 kilograms (over 230 pounds), successfully defended his title from 1999 (last year’s downhill and super G were cancelled) against Jeff Durand of Calgary and Edi Podivinsky of Toronto, who finished second and third respectively.

"Considering the conditions we’ve had this week I’m really happy we got this race off," said Wert. "And obviously I’m happy with the outcome."

Wert went on to win his first ever super-G title, followed by Thomas Grandi of Banff and Durand.

On March 27, Jean-Philippe Roy of Ste. Flavie, Quebec, successfully defended his giant slalom title, although junior skier Erik Guay gave him a run for his money. Kelowna’s Ryan Oughtred, another young prospect, finished third.

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