Hamilton impresses Colorado judges 

Most inspirational athlete

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It was a busy weekend for the kids invited to the first Sports Illustrated for Kids Next Snow All Stars event at Keystone, Colorado this past weekend, with superpipe, slopestyle, big air and big mountain snowcross over two activity-filled days.

The All Stars event was open to the top kids from the 2004 and 2005 contests, as well as a boy and girl from each of the five qualifier events in North America.

Ten year old Logan Pehota of Pemberton, a J4 racer with Whistler Blackcomb, qualified as one of the top nine-year-olds in 2005.

The boy and girl selected by the judges at the Whistler qualifier were Brin Alexander and Kerry-Anne Hamilton.

Pehota didn’t get a chance to compete after crashing during training and suffering a minor concussion. He’s taking a week off his skis, but plans to compete at the Next Snow Search Finals at Killington, Vermont in February.

Hamilton, who turned 11 the week before, won the girls Earn Your Stripes award, presented by Kellog’s Frosted Flakes. The award "recognizes the most inspirational athletes who embody the ideas of the Earn Your Stripes program by working hard to become better at their respective sport."

In addition to an award, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes will provide a year’s supply of cereal to the B.C. Children’s Hospital, Hamilton’s charity of choice.

Judges were so impressed with Hamilton that they also extended an invite to the Next Snow Search Finals. Also invited are Pehota, skiers Devin White and Cameron Schuster, and snowboarder Max Ripper.

Hamilton was the youngest female participant – one was 14 and the rest were 15 years old – but then she has already been skiing for more than eight years after getting into the sport at the age of two, as soon as she could walk. She has skied with Whistler-Blackcomb Ski School and the Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club before switching over to the Whistler Blackcomb Freeride Club for this season. Through the WBFC she is getting coached in all of the terrain park events, as well in big mountain freeskiing, which helped get her through the Whistler qualifier.

Only 62 athletes were invited to the All Star event, out of 4,000 kids taking part in the qualifiers or competing in past years.

"It was a really fun event," she said. "The courses were set up really well for all the events. The jumps were huge, like 40 to 50 feet long, and I didn’t think I could do all of them but I did, so I’m really happy with that."

Hamilton is currently practising her spins and rails, but stuck with the tricks she learned in freestyle for the big air and slopestyle events. In the slopestyle she did a twister over the 20-foot table, an iron cross over the 30-footer, and a spread over the 50-footer.

She can also clear the wall on both sides of the halfpipe, but plans to practice harder to get more air.

Participating and winning a medal in the All Stars event has given Hamilton a boost of confidence.

"Now all I want to do is spend more time on my skis learning new things, and getting better, and to enter every contest that I can," she said. That’s on top of her growing collection of regular sports, including swimming, mountain biking, gymnastics, triathlons, skateboarding and inline skating.

She plans to try out again next year and the year after that – with a cutoff age of 13, she will be able to qualify up to three more times.

Brin Alexander also had a strong showing at the All-Stars, but was in a difficult category against dozens of riders from across North America. This is also his second year with the SI Next Snow Search, after winning recognition last year as one of the few athletes to compete on both skis and snowboard.

Alexander rides with the Whistler Valley Snowboard Club, and competes in every local contest open to

NBC Sports will be airing the All Stars competition at 2 p.m. ET on Feb. 11 to coincide with the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

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