Sharpe second at season opener 

d'Artois hits sixth at Copper Mountain

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Demon slayed Cassie Sharpe pulled off a second-place finish at Copper Mountain on Dec. 7.
  • PHOTO submitted
  • Demon slayed Cassie Sharpe pulled off a second-place finish at Copper Mountain on Dec. 7.

After a hard fall during an easy trick in the pipe at Copper Mountain Resort two years ago, it wasn't hard for Cassie Sharpe to end up a little bit gun-shy there despite cranking out wins all over the world.

But after a second-place showing there on Dec. 7, Whistler resident Sharpe felt she may have finally slain the dragon after landing two strong runs, struggling in her first attempt before scoring 89.75 on second run and 90.50 on her third.

"I've always had some issues at Copper, but it felt pretty good to shake off the jitters and perform through that mental block," she said. "I (had) knocked myself out, had to go get a CT scan and I don't really remember my trip to Copper that year. Since then, I just haven't enjoyed skiing in that halfpipe.

"I'm probably still going to be nervous every time going there, but I feel pretty good about being able to overcome that fear."

Sharpe ended up in second behind only Estonia's Kelly Sildaru, who had a 93.00 while American Brita Sigourney was in third with an 88.00. Fellow Canadian Rachael Karker also made finals, taking fourth for her highest-ever World Cup finish.

Conquering Copper is just the latest accomplishment for the reigning Crystal Globe winner and Olympic champion, though Sharpe downplayed what those accomplishments mean entering a clean slate.

"In our sport, it's so different from other sports. The Olympics, obviously, were a huge thing but in the World Cup, you go and you do the same thing and you're competing against the same people. Anything can change at any moment and I don't really see myself coming in as a bigger threat than anybody else that's in the top 10," she said, particularly noting Sildaru as one to watch in coming seasons. "It'll be really exciting having her in there and it'll be really cool to see how things play out."

In the men's event, Simon d'Artois was the highest-scoring Canadian with his best run of 79.50 slotting him into sixth. American Aaron Blunck put up a 96.25 to take the victory ahead of New Zealand's Miguel Porteus and fellow Yank David Wise. Other Canadians barely missed the 10-competitor final, with Noah Bowman in 11th, Dylan Marineau in 14th and Finn Young in 20th.

While d'Artois generally felt good to start the year, continuing the changes he made after a 13th-place finish at the Winter Olympics in South Korea, he knows there's still a little bit of rust to shake off.

"I definitely wanted to put my run down a little bit better than I had, but I'm pretty excited and happy with the progressions with my skiing coming out of last year," he said. "I'm happy with the way that it ended up. I'm just looking to clean it up and improve at the events to come."

The biggest change d'Artois would have liked to have made is to have smoothly slid his new additions into his run. Though the slickness wasn't quite to the level he'd have liked, he's sure he'll get it down pat sooner than later.

"I ended off last year, after the Games, I added one new aspect to my run, which increases the difficulty of one of my switch tricks. Throughout the summer, I was working on that and trying to dial that in," he said. "I'm also incorporating a new switch double after that switch trick. It increases the difficulty in the middle of my run."

Competition conditions were pleasantly pristine, d'Artois recalled.

"It was surprisingly good. Usually we're dealing with either snow or extremely cold temperatures, but the day of finals was a pretty decently sunny day for the most part," he said. "We didn't have to bundle up or anything, so that was really nice."

Coming up this week will be the Dew Tour on Thursday, Dec. 13. It'll be a new format this year, as the halfpipe will contain additional features that d'Artois is looking forward to trying.

"It'll incorporate a little bit of a different feel than just a straight halfpipe. It'll be a little more of a low-pressure event to just go out there and have some fun," he said. "It incorporates some side transitions and jumps into the halfpipe that we don't normally see. It's going to be a lot of fun and a little more of a free-for-all.

"We'll be working on tricks we don't normally do and that aren't normally in the halfpipe run, things like that."

While Sharpe said she'd try to shrug it off if things don't go her way, she acknowledged that she and the other athletes are too competitive to decline taking the event seriously. After a day of training on Dec. 11, she is excited to give it a go in competition.

"It's cool to change the format a little bit and let people's creativity shine. It's very different and a little nerve-wracking, but I think it's going to be a really interesting contest," Sharpe said.

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