McNeill, Ho win at NorAms 

Whistler Freeride Club members give it their all at one-run comp

PHOTO SUBMITTED - GOLDEN BOY Wei Tien Ho (centre) celebrates his victory at the IFSA North American Junior Championships.
  • Photo submitted
  • GOLDEN BOY Wei Tien Ho (centre) celebrates his victory at the IFSA North American Junior Championships.

The weather at Kirkwood Mountain Resort wasn't feeling cooperative for the International Freeskiers and Snowboarders Association (IFSA) North American Junior Championship last weekend.

Mother Nature was so stubborn that organizers had to trim the competition to just one run, where each athlete was set up to do-or-die.

Two Whistler skiers thrived, though they reacted rather differently to the delay.

Olivia McNeill, the female 15 to 18 champion, bested her competition by well over two points as she capped a dominant season with her third consecutive title.

"It was pretty nice to relax and I actually enjoyed having a one-run comp. It was really exciting and it really forced everyone to do their best the first time and just go for it," she said. "It was a sunny, pow day comp. You couldn't ask for better conditions."

Meanwhile, Wei Tien Ho edged out the win by less than a point in the male 12 to 14 event, acknowledging that though he got the added rest, he was missing his time on snow.

"I was getting really nervous coming up to the day," he said. "I have a bit of a routine before we drop into the course, so I breathe and visualize after my inspection and then I visualize a lot at the top.

"Right before I drop in, my excitedness takes over. I just get excited to ski."

Just 12, Ho bested skiers two years older than him on a California course he was eager to tackle.

"I really liked the course. The course has features you can link together really well, and at the bottom, there was a nice hit that I really liked," he said. "There were a couple hits that I was scared to hit but they went OK."

Though he didn't anticipate being called up to the front coming in, Ho said when he completed his run, he was still listening out for it.

"They announced the top 10 and asked the top five to come up. They were going through five and four and then once they announced three, he (Simon Hillis, the overall champion) is super good and I didn't think I was going to beat him, so I didn't think I was going to get top two. Then they announced my name," he said. "I was super happy and super surprised."

For his effort, Ho leapfrogged a number of fellow competitors to land second in the overall standings.

McNeill, meanwhile, said even with the rest coming in, she felt some nerves just before she dropped in. However, with a big feature right off the top, it was a bit by design.

"The top drop was the one that I was pretty nervous about and once I got in the air, I was so happy that I did it," she said. "After that, I enjoyed the whole run, had a lot of fun the whole time.

"I was so busy being nervous about that that I forgot to be nervous for the comp run. I didn't really have any nerves about my run. I was just nervous about the drop and as soon as it was over, it was all good."

McNeill said she planned her run to go as big as possible — being the season finale, she'd be going home whether she did or not.

"I figured I'd just go for it because if I didn't do it, I just wouldn't feel good. It doesn't matter what I do or what happens, it would be pretty awesome just to go for it and if I fell, it doesn't matter, I went for it," she said. "It's the last comp of the season. I should go big right off the top and I ended up doing that."

As a 16-year-old, McNeill still has a couple of seasons left in a division she's dominated, but tries to focus on herself and not who she's facing. Even in wins, she felt there were some runs she could have done better. She felt proud of her Kirkwood run and hopes to build on that feeling in 2017-18.

"Every comp, especially now, my goal is just to do the best that I can do. If I keep doing that and keep pushing myself in competition, I don't think it matters," she said. "It doesn't matter what the competition is, I love competing, but I don't necessarily count myself against other people. I take myself against myself and see if I can do better than the last time or go bigger than I've done before and do some new things every comp to see if I can keep pushing myself.

"I want to go for the 'wow' factor every time. I want people to look at the run and go 'That was good' and enjoy watching it. If it's fun for me, I hope it's fun for other people."

Complete results are online at



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