Pemberton’s Richards leads mogul team 

Canadian skiers collect four medals at Finnish World Cup


The Canadian moguls team reasserted its presence at the World Cup opener at Sumou, Finland last weekend with four medals and several top 10 placings.

Most of the medals were on the women's side last weekend with Pemberton's Kristi Richards leading the way with gold and silver over two days of competition. Olympic champion Jennifer Heil also made the podium with a bronze medal on the second day of competition.

Richards's gold medal came after the second fastest run of the day with the highest style points.

Aiko Uemura of Japan, the reigning World Cup champion, placed second by a little under half a point, while veteran Hannah Kearney of the U.S. placed third.

"I'm so excited, I can't ask for anything more than to start the season like this," said Richards. "I feel like the last four years of work are coming together at the right time. I just went for it today in the final and didn't hold anything back."

Canada's Jenn Heil placed fifth in that event, followed by Chloe Dufour-Lapointe in sixth place, Whistler's Sylvia Kerfoot was 12 th and Audrey Robichaud 16 th .

The top two spots in the men's competition went to a pair of relatively unknown skiers with Jesper Bjoernlund of Sweden taking gold and Byron Wilson of the U.S. silver. Alex Bilodeau of Quebec, the reigning World Cup champion, placed third.

"It's very encouraging to start the season with a strong result," said the 22-year-old Bilodeau. "It was very close between the top five guys and I know that I made some mistakes that left the door open for others. The course wasn't technically difficult so you really had to look good out there, ski fast and not make any mistakes."

Philippe Marquis was seventh, Vincent Marquis 13 th , Renaud Jacques-Dagenais 14 th and Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau 15 th .

Kristi Richards had another strong run on day two after nearly missing the finals with a near-crash in the qualifier. She made it through and ended her day less than a point back of Hannah Kearney, while Heil placed third - just 0.05 points behind Richards.

Heil felt there was room for improvement despite two results in the top four.

"My transmission got a little jammed in third, but I was ready to get into fourth," she said. "I'm disappointed with my performance this weekend, but it's a starting point."

Chloe and Maxime Dufour-Lapointe of Montreal were 10 th and 13 th , and Whistler's Sylvia Kerfoot 20 th .

None of the Canadian men made the podium on the second day with Alex Bilodeau just missing the cut in fourth. He felt he should have ranked higher.

"I did my best run today in the finals, but my score was higher in the qualifications this morning," he said. "My skiing's really good. I'm where I want to be, but I have no control over the judging.

"It's also harder on an easier course like this to see the difference between a good skier and a great skier."

Jesper Bjoernlund and Byron Wilson took the top two spots, with Nathan Roberts of the U.S. third. Other Canadians in the top 30 were Philippe Marquis 16 th and Renaud Jacques-Dagenais 25 th .

The athletes only have a handful of events to qualify for the Games, with the selection period wrapping up on Jan. 24. A maximum of four women and four men will represent Canada in freestyle, with selections being made entirely based on results since January 2009.



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