Whistler riders win national titles 

International field checks out 2010 venue, but fog once again plays havoc at Cypress

After two test events of Olympic venues at Cypress Mountain, freestyle and snowboarding, it’s becoming clear that one factor could present a huge challenge for organizers in 2010 — fog. It’s also the one factor that organizers can’t do much about.

This past weekend Cypress hosted the Canadian halfpipe and snowboardcross championships, which attracted an international World Cup field of athletes looking over the venues for 2010. The snowboardcross contest was delayed several times due to fog, and fog eventually forced the halfpipe judges to climb halfway up the pipe so they could see the top and bottom of the course.

In a way it was a replay of a World Cup freestyle event held at Cypress in early February, where the finals for aerials and moguls competitions were cut short by fog and the qualifiers were accepted for the final results. However, there is a good chance that the Olympics won’t be affected by fog — all freestyle and snowboard events will be taking place under the lights, and things tend to clear up at night for the Lower Mainland mountains.

In the snowboardcross nationals, Derek Wintermans was the top Canadian on the men’s side, finishing third behind Nate Holland of the U.S. and Pierre Vaultier of France. Drew Neilson also made the finals but fell near the top of the course.

On the women’s side, Whistler’s Maëlle Ricker was the top Canadian with her second place finish behind Simona Miller of France. Mellie Francon and Olivia Nobs of Switzerland were third and fourth.

In the halfpipe competition, Australia’s Torah Bright finished first on the women’s side, more than nine points ahead of Whistler’s Mercedes Nicoll and Squamish’s Sarah Conrad. Nicoll, as the top Canadian, was crowned the national champion.

“My objective was to make big moves while avoiding any errors,” she said of winning her fourth national title. “It is one of my best competitions this year. I was more relaxed than in other competitions.”

On the men’s side, Brad Martin of Squamish edged out Jeff Batchelor for the win, followed closed by Justin Lamoureux. The top six athletes were separated by less than two points.

All the guys on the national team were killing it and we had so much fun,” said Martin. “I don’t know what the difference was for me today, I just let myself go. Every time I hit the halfpipe, I want to win and have fun.”

LG Electronics, which signed a sponsorship deal with the national team days before the nationals, added $10,000 to the prize purse to make things interesting.

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