Schwinghammer ties for 10th in World Cup debut 

Fellow Whistlerite Gagnon takes career-best 13th in Calgary

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MATEUSZ KIELPINSKI / FIS - Making it Maia Schwinghammer excelled in her FIS World Cup debut.
  • Photo by Mateusz Kielpinski / FIS
  • Making it Maia Schwinghammer excelled in her FIS World Cup debut.

Former Freestyle Whistler member Maia Schwinghammer made her FIS World Cup debut in Calgary on Jan. 12, and hit the top 10 in her first contest.

The 17-year-old Schwinghammer posted a score of 72.37, 6.73 points back of winner Yulia Galysheva of Kazakhstan and less than four points off the podium. France's Perrine Laffont placed second while American Jaelin Kauf took third.

Schwinghammer was the third best Canadian behind two Dufour-Lapointe sisters, as Justine was fifth and Chloe took eighth. Meanwhile, fellow Whistlerite Sofiane Gagnon also took a career best, placing 13th with a 67.98 tally.

Lastly, Laurianne Desmarais-Gilbert hit the top 30 in 27th place.

Reflecting on the day, Schwinghammer said that after cracking the top 16 in qualifying and advancing to finals, there was no more stress after she had exceeded her initial expectations. Any other accomplishments were a bonus.

"Honestly, it was one of the best experiences of my life so far. I've been looking forward to it for a really long time and to come out with the result that I did was pretty crazy," she said. "I was much less nervous in finals. Coming into the competition, I hadn't expected to make the top 16 and to be already in there, I had no stress. It was all fun."

What made the final especially surprising for Schwinghammer was that she had struggled in training earlier in the day.

"I didn't even put down a top-to-bottom (run). I didn't do my comp run in training. It really wasn't going well," she said. "But in the competition, I put it all together."

Schwinghammer qualified in 15th, but managed to rise a few spots in finals after tidying up her approach.

"I had a couple mistakes coming out of the top jump in my qualification run and then in finals, I just cleaned it up. I skied faster. I skied better than I had been," she said.

It was helpful, Schwinghammer said, that she debuted on the familiar Calgary course where she earned a second-place finish in last year's NorAm event and where she's cut her teeth.

"I'm a big fan of that course. I really, really like it and it was good to do it on home soil," she said, noting that she enjoys how steep it is. "All my family came to watch because it's pretty close to home, so I had the whole cheering squad out there. It's a good environment there. It was really nice to do that in finals in Canada."

Being her rookie season on the national team, Schwinghammer said she was told that she would enter the Calgary competition and the Mont Tremblant, Que. event later this month. However, by virtue of her stronger-than-anticipated debut, she was invited to compete at the World Cup in Lake Placid, N.Y. with qualifiers on Jan. 17 and finals on Jan. 18.

"I'd really like to get a good result here," she said from New York state. "There's talk about potentially going to World Championships and I'd just like to make finals again and see where that takes me."Though currently based in Saskatoon where she is completing her final year of high school, Schwinghammer is a regular in Whistler, having grown up in the Freestylerz and Freestyle Whistler programs.

"I've been skiing at Momentum Camps as long as I can remember," she said. "It's such a great facility for us in the summer and it's a great spot to train."

On the men's side, Canadian Mikael Kingsbury put up his third moguls victory of the season and fourth win overall to pad his all-time lead. The 26-year-old bested Sweden's Walter Wallberg by 3.19 points and Whistler-raised Daichi Hara, representing Japan, by 6.03 points. Meanwhile, Laurent Dumais hit the top 10 in 10th place, while Philippe Marquis placed 18th, Pemberton's Brenden Kelly was 23rd and Kerrian Chunlaud took 28th. Jordan Kober, meanwhile, snagged the final spot of the top 30.

"Things turned out to be a little easier for me today, because some guys got caught up going down the slope over the two finals. But I still went with my hardest trick of the day in the second final," Kingsbury said in a release. "When I saw (in the second final) that nobody had done something outstanding before me, and that Benjamin (Clavet) pulled out, I decided to go with a copy paste of my first final and that's what I was able to do, which earned about the same score. Still, it wasn't easy today because it was warm and the snow texture kept changing, and that's why some guys had a tough time."

Full results are available online at www.fis-ski.com.

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