Locals on top at freestyle nationals 

Bradley, Ringstad among mogul medallists

After one of its most successful seasons on the World Cup tour in years, the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team wrapped it up at Marble Mountain, Newfoundland last weekend at the Canadian Freestyle Ski Championships.

Members of the national team competed against members of the national development team and provincial teams.

The action got underway on March 22 with moguls competition.

Whistler’s Kelly Ringstad, 28, was seventh last year but pushed it to win her first national title with a score of 26.34. "I’m just really relieved and I’m proud of myself," she said. "I’ve never won, it feels good. It’s a great way to end the season."

Ringstad was 13 th in the Olympics this year, and called this season a roller-coaster ride. She jumped from sixth at one World Cup competition to 18 th in another, and wound up ranked 20 th in moguls and 22 nd in dual moguls.

Showing the strength of the national program, both the silver and bronze medal spots went to members of the National Development Team. Stephanie St-Pierre of Victoriaville, Quebec, posted a score of 25.99 to finish second while Elisa Kurlowicz of Manotick, Ontario, was third with a 25.49.

Jennifer Heil of Spruce Grove, Alberta, was fourth in the Olympics and fourth in the national championships. Tami Bradley, who divides her time between Vancouver and Whistler, was fifth.

In the men’s competition, Stéphane Rochon of St-Sauveur, Quebec, returned to the top of the national podium for the first time since 1996. Although he was sixth overall on the World Cup circuit, second in moguls, and third in dual moguls, the 28-year-old hinted that he might decide to retire as a champion.

"It’s been a long time," said Rochon, who has been on the World Cup circuit since 1994. "I want to finish with a good season, like I just had. If I don’t feel I can perform like I did this season, I don’t want to just travel. I want to compete.

"I can’t be happier with my season, except for the Olympics."

This season he won one gold medal, two bronze medals, and three bronze medals in World Cup competition, and was in the top 10 in eight out of 12 competitions. He was 15 th in the Olympics.

With a score of 27.93, Rochon edged past Scott Bellavance and NDT skier Warren Tanner. Bellaveance, who hails from Prince George but trains in Whistler, scored a 27.57 to finish off the best season of his career. The highlight was his sixth place finish at the Olympics.

Tanner, who is from Grimsby, Ontario, posted a score of 26.16 to edge out mogul legend and 1994 Olympic champion Jean-Luc Brassard by 0.05 points. Chris Wong, another Prince George skier, finished fifth.

The aerials competition was called on Saturday due to high winds and poor visibility, and although things cleared up for a while on Sunday, the winds were still gusting up to 80 kilometres an hour. The men’s jumps were cancelled and some of Canada’s top female aerialists, including Olympic silver medallist Veronica Brenner of Sharon, Ontario, opted to sit it out.

The event would also feature just one jump instead of the usual two.

Karen MacDonald of Toronto reluctantly stepped up to become the Canadian champion.

"It was a win with one of the ugliest jumps I’ve done," said the 24-year-old, whose previous best at the nationals was fourth.

Melissa Prefontaine of Grande Prairie, Alberta, was second. Third went to 2001 World Champion Veronika Bauer of Toronto. Fourth went to Olympic bronze medallist Diedra Dionne of Red Deer, Alberta.

The wind didn’t affect the dual moguls, however, or Rochon’s bid to win a second Canadian title.

Rochon climbed his way through the ranks, eventually squaring off against Chris Wong in the semi-finals.

"I was actually pretty scared," said Rochon. "He’s very motivated and talented too. He’s working hard and he’s got the attitude to be a champion."

Rochon won the heat, and then went on to claim his first dual moguls title over Scott Bellavance. Ryan Johnson of Calgary defeated Wong in the small final to finish in third. Johnson, 27, went on to announce his plans to retire from the circuit after the best season of his career. He won a World Cup this year and was seventh at the Olympics. Rochon didn’t say any more about his own plans.

In the women’s event, Tami Bradley won her first ever national championship, defeating Vancouver’s Sylvia Kerfoot in the final heat.

"I was definitely on today," said the 31-year-old Bradley. "I’m either on or off and today I got out there and knew I was going to be heading to the finals. It was my kind of course."

Jennifer Heil missed her third straight dual moguls title, but finished third after defeating Stephanie St-Pierre.

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