Mikkelsen holds her own in Red Deer 

Locals close to medals at Canada Winter Games

click to enlarge PHOTO BY KEVIN BOGETTI-SMITH - flyin' maya Whistler's Maya Mikkelsen performed well in the moguls and aerials events at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta.
  • photo by kevin bogetti-smith
  • flyin' maya Whistler's Maya Mikkelsen performed well in the moguls and aerials events at the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, Alta.

Whistler's Maya Mikkelsen started her first Canada Winter Games with a bit of an unfamiliar experience.

Competing against athletes two to three years older than her, the 15-year-old moguls skier lined up in the aerials event at Alberta's Canyon Ski Resort on Feb. 17, pulling off a fourth-place finish after squeaking into the final in the sixth and final qualification spot.

Mikkelsen said she wasn't used to the bigger jumps in the aerials event, which she competed in to help make the contest happen.

"Aerials is definitely not my thing. We just had to do it because there were no aerialists, really. There were only two," she said. "It was different but I liked it because it was really improving my jumps for the moguls. I was just doing my mogul tricks on a bigger jump, so I was getting more comfortable with those tricks."

"The first couple times, I didn't land them because I didn't understand how big I was actually going," she said. "I kept over-rotating them.

"Once I figured out my speed and how fast or slow I had to be flipping, then I started understanding how to do it better."

Mikkelsen took that momentum into the Feb. 18 moguls event, which saw her qualify with the third-highest score on her first run and advance immediately. The other half of the finals field did a second run, and with stellar athletes advancing after she did, Mikkelsen took nothing for granted in the final.

"There were some really strong skiers that messed up in Run 1 so I knew that the finals would be a lot harder if they put down a second run," she said.

Mikkelsen's Freestyle Whistler teammate Jessie Linton took sixth in the moguls contest.

Mikkelsen had experience with the Canyon course after taking part in last year's test event. It was a bit simpler than what she faces in B.C., but she certainly didn't mind.

"It was definitely a pretty easy course. We've definitely skied a lot harder courses in the past," she said. "I usually tend to do better on easier courses because I have more confidence. I really want to try to get my confidence up when we get to the hard courses."

Mikkelsen had the opportunity to take in the Alberta-B.C. hockey game after completing her events and was getting set to fly out to Colorado on Feb. 19 to continue her season.

Mikkelsen's fellow club members have also had strong starts if they haven't hauled in any medals quite yet.

In the men's aerials event, Josh Maga and Sam Cordell took fifth and seventh, respectively, while in the moguls contest, Cordell and Maga finished sixth and seventh, respectively, with Cordell finishing only 1.82 points off the podium.

Meanwhile, local Whistler Nordic Development Centre athletes brought home the local contingent's first medals of the games on Feb. 18.

Larissa Black of Squamish won the women's 7.5-km pursuit by 6.6 seconds over teammate Gillian Gowling. Zoe Pekos took 18th. The men were also successful as Ryan Elden won gold in the 10-km pursuit by 52.6 seconds over runner-up Leo Grandbois of Quebec while Lucas Smith placed 10th.

Both teammates had strong showings in biathlon on Feb. 17, as Black and Gowling took fourth and fifth, respectively, and Zoe Pekos took eighth in the women's six-kilometre event. As for the men, Ryan Elden and Lucas Smith placed fifth and seventh, respectively.

The Games continue until March 3.

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