Switzerland defends 26th Whistler Cup 

Ontario 1 triumphant in the overall U14 event

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAN FALLOON - Swiss pleased Team Switzerland won the U16 Whistler Cup for the second consecutive year.
  • Photo by Dan Falloon
  • Swiss pleased Team Switzerland won the U16 Whistler Cup for the second consecutive year.

Switzerland scored its second consecutive Mackenzie Investments Whistler Cup in 2018.

The squad, despite not being quite as dominant as in its 2017 victory when it took five of nine women's medals, still impressed in U16 action this year.

Swiss head coach Serge Allemand said though his team had just one returning racer this year, the skiers held up well in Whistler Cup action.

"It was wonderful. It's nice to share these emotions with the girls and the boys on the team," he said. "It's really nice to be here in Whistler and that the results were good enough to defend it."

While the weather conditions were hit and miss over the four-day event, Allemand dismissed the effects on his athletes.

"We had days that were a bit better and days that were a bit more difficult like in slalom that were certainly not really easy," he said. "At the end, the guys and girls put up a great performance.

"We must be aware that skiing always happens outside. You never have conditions that are ever the same."

Team USA was second while Canada 1 was third.

In the U14 Festival Cup chase, Ontario 1 took the win, knocking off BC 1 and Japan.

In terms of individual awards, Whistler Mountain Ski Club's Sara Stiel won the U14 Nancy Greene Award while Canada 1's Sarah Brown won the U16 award. As for the Dave Murray Award, Quebec's Philippe Bergeron won the U14 trophy while John Daniel Profitt won the U16 award. The awards go to Canada's top skier in each age category.

Stiel and teammate Kaila Lafreniere both had stellar weekends and the award could certainly have gone to either of the best friends.

"It was pretty exciting," said Stiel. "I wasn't really expecting it because it was really close between me and Kaila.

"It was really special because everyone was there, all of our friends and family."

Stiel said this weekend was the pinnacle of a spectacular season that saw her hit the podium at BC Winter Games and excel in numerous races this year.

Brown, meanwhile, was ecstatic with the award talking about it in a sunny Skier's Plaza on Sunday afternoon.

"I'm really happy to have done it at such an important race to me," Brown said. "It's the end of the year and the end of U16 for me.

"I was happy to win in front of family and friends out in Whistler."

Brown started the week with a 16th-place showing in the super-G on Thursday, just out of the points (which are only awarded to the top 15 finishers), but she regrouped and gained traction going into the technical events, winning the slalom after taking third in the giant slalom.

"I started off the race series not-so-great, but on the second day, got better. I just took that confidence into the last day and tried to have fun and do my best," she said. "I think, just knowing that this was my last race in U16 and wanting to give it my all, wanting to put it all on the line because I had nothing to lose (made the difference)."

Organizers also debuted a new honour Sunday, bestowing the U16 Spirit Award on Argentina.

In Sunday's U16 team event, USA 1 rode to the win, besting Switzerland 1 in the final. In the small final, France 1 topped Canada 1. Two Canadian teams, BC 1 and Canada 2, fell in the quarterfinals.

In U14 action, WMSC's Stiel and Lafreniere took second and third in the giant slalom, finishing behind only Japan's Misaki Matsuda. Ontario 1's Lily Sewell and Maxine Van Strien were ninth and 10th, respectively.

As for the men, Ontario's Tristan Stryjnik hit the podium in third behind winner Rudolf Hozmann of Hungary and runner-up Haruya Funato of Japan. His Ontario teammate, Ben Weingust, was just off the podium in fourth while BC 1's Dylan Stevens snagged 10th.

On Saturday, Brown topped the U16 slalom competition, besting Switzerland's Sarah Zoller by 0.74 seconds and Israel's Noa Szollos by 2.55 seconds. It was Brown's second medal in as many days as she was third in Friday's giant slalom.

Other top 10 results from Canadians on Saturday came from: Canada 1's Arianne Forget in fourth and Alberta 1's Britt Richardson and Jacqueline Gray back to back in sixth and seventh, respectively.

Meanwhile, in Saturday's U14 women's event, Lafreniere edged Stiel in the parallel slalom big final. The small final was an all-Ontario battle with Van Strien edging Sewell.

Lafreniere said her previous Whistler Cup experience helped play a role in her determination this year.

"Last year, when I saw everyone getting on the podium, and No. 1 had the flag, I realized I wanted that to happen. It did. I got No. 1 and I got to hold the Canadian flag. I achieved my goal and that was pretty awesome," she said.

Stiel appreciated the chance to go head to head with her friend while finding a way to balance competitiveness and companionship.

"It was really cool because we're both best friends, but it was still really intense because we were both competing against each other," she said. "We were both super tired because it was the end and we had each done 10 runs previously. Going up behind the sled, we were both like, 'We need a break at the top' and we were both (saying) 'Good luck!', 'Good luck!'

"When she won, there were hugs at the finish and it was really loud."

Added Lafreniere: "I wouldn't have had it any differently. We were pretty excited at the end. It felt like we had both won ... I was so happy we made it to the finals together."

As for the men, Whistler's Tait Jordan, representing Canada 1, was the top Canuck in the men's slalom as he took a fifth-place finish. The podium was topped by two Swiss racers, with Luc Roduit taking the win and Nicolas Macheret placing second. Chile's Nicolas Pirozzi was third.

Other Canadians in the top 10 were Jacob Goneau in sixth, Mackenzie Wood in ninth and Profitt in 10th.

Lastly, in the U14 giant slalom, Quebec's Philippe Bergeron hit the podium in third behind only Japan's Haruya Funato, the champion, and Chile's Lucas Aramburo, the runner-up. Ontario's Ben Weingust also slipped into the top 10 in 10th.

On Friday, Whistler's Lafreniere finished behind only American Jessica Blackburn in the two-run U14 slalom, 3.62 seconds back of top spot, while also edging New Zealand's Mikayla Smith. Teammate Sara Stiel was fourth. Ontarians Van Strien and Abbygail Byers were fifth and seventh, while Grouse Mountain's Mila Plavsic took ninth.

In the U16 men's giant slalom, Canada had just one athlete hit the top 10, with Mackenzie Wood taking ninth. American Ryder Sarchett edged Switzerland's Roduit and Chile's Pirozzi for gold.

In the U14 parallel slalom event, Pedro Holscher edged Finnigan Donley in the men's big final while Ben Weingust took the small final over Ewan Carter.

Friday's U16 women's results were not immediately available.

U16 action started Thursday with Canada's Profitt capturing the win in the men's super-G with Sarchett and Slovakia's Vaclav Klein tying for second.

On the women's side, Switzerland's Durrer topped the field, besting Canada's Arianne Forget and France's Caitlin McFarlane. Other Canadians in the top 10 were Jade Bonneville in fourth and Britt Richardson in 10th.Full results are online at www.whistlercup.com.

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