Freestyle selection comes down to the wire 

Bean edges Blais for aerials team in podium-filled weekend

By Andrew Mitchell

Although a mogul competition still remains before the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team can announce its squad for the 2006 Winter Games, the big picture got a lot clearer at Lake Placid this past weekend.

There were two moguls contest and an aerials contest up for grabs, with a crowd of thousands cheering on the competitors. The Canadians always have a lot of fans in Lake Placid, as it’s one of the main summer training sites for the national team.

In the first moguls contest on Friday, Stephanie St. Pierre of Victoriaville, Quebec came one step closer to locking her spot on the national team with a silver medal performance, between Michelle Roark of the U.S. and Kari Traa of Norway.

“It feels really good to get that medal,” said the 20-year-old St. Pierre. “I was pretty frustrated after the prelims and in the final I told myself I was going to show what I was capable of.

“The Olympic situation wasn’t causing me stress since I’m ranked second for the spot. For me, I really wanted to prove to myself I could win a medal before the Games.”

Four other Canadians qualified for the finals by finishing in the top-16. Audrey Robichaud of Val-Belair, Quebec was sixth, Elisa Kurylowicz of Manotick, Ontario was eighth, Jennifer Heil of Spruce Grove, Alberta was ninth and Whistler’s Sylvia Kerfoot was 12 th .

So far Heil is the only Canadian guaranteed a spot on the Olympic team in moguls.

Meanwhile, Alexandre Bilodeau of Rosemere, Quebec showed why he deserves to be on the team with a silver medal performance of his own, between Whistler’s Dale Begg-Smith (now living in Vancouver and competing for Australia) and Toby Dawson of the U.S.

It was Bilodeau’s second career World Cup medal, after winning gold two weeks earlier. Prior to that the 18-year-old former aerials specialist was known as a skier who impressed in training, but had trouble in competitions.

“I’m not too disappointed to drop a placing (to Toby Dawson) in the final, things are going well for me,” he said. “My run in the final was clean until the second air on which I went higher and further than expected. That affected my timing down to the last bumps. Still, I’m delivering the whole package when I compete. My airs, my speed, my skiing are all very strong right now.”

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