World Cup titles in sight for freestylers 

Injuries claim five national team members

With one more solid week under her belt 20-year-old Jennifer Heil of Spruce Grove, Alberta can clinch the women’s World Cup moguls title. Steve Omischl of North Bay already clinched his own World Cup title after posting the best score of his career last weekend.

It was another good week for the Canadians, with two more medals to celebrate. In the last seven weeks, the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team has claimed 23 World Cup medals in moguls and aerials alone, and is by far the most dominant nation on the tour, with strong contenders in all categories.

More amazing is the fact that the team continues to win even after five athletes have been sidelined by injuries in recent weeks – Stephanie St-Pierre of Victoriaville, Quebec; Ryan Blais of Grande-Prairie, Alberta; Chris Wong of Prince George; JF Therrien of Mont Tremblant, Quebec; and Elisa Kurylowicz of Manotick, Ontario.

The freestyle team spent the weekend at Spindleruv Mlyn in the Czech Republic. Omischl finished second behind Xiaotao Ou of China and ahead of Joe Pack of the U.S. Ottawa’s Jeff Bean was 12 th .

"This just means so much to me personally," said Omischl, who has five gold medals and three silver medals this season in 11 World Cup events.

"I knew I had to do well today to take care of the title, and to come through under pressure with my all-time best score is the best thing ever."

Before last weekend, less than 70 points separated Omischl from Dmitri Dashinski of Belarus. With each win worth 100 points and two events left on the calendar, the pressure was on Omischl to have a good week.

"There’s no secret. We just work hard," said Omischl. "I felt some pressure to put Canada back on top in this event because we’ve won it so many times but (have) been in a little drought lately. But we should be the best because we work the hardest and we have great facilities."

Canadian men have won the aerials crown 14 times since 1984, including four titles by Nicolas Fontaine of Magog, Quebec.

In the women’s contest, Nina Li of China took the gold ahead of Alisa Camplin and Lydia Ierodiaconou of Australia. The top Canadian was Amber Peterson of Thunder Bay in ninth. Deidra Dionne of Red Deer, Alberta was 12 th .

A day after Omischl clinched his title, Heil took another step towards her World Cup title with her third gold medal of the season.

Heil says it was a personal victory – she has had trouble in the finals after leading the qualification round in the past, and this is the first time she did well in both the qualifier and the competition.

"I’m pretty excited, being able to deal with the pressure of qualifying first," said Heil.

"You know you have to pump it up if you’re going to ski your best run of the day.

"In the past I’ve been a little reserved, but not today. It is tough, though, because you almost lose focus because of all the scores. It almost feels like the race is over before your turn."

Kari Traa of Norway, a four-time World Cup champion, stayed in the hunt for her fifth title with a second place finish. Margarita Marbler, who is also third in the rankings, took the bronze.

Whistler’s Sylvia Kerfoot also managed to make the finals along with Heil after posting a career-best fifth in the qualification round. She fell in her run to finish 12 th but broke the curse that left her out of the finals in 13 th place three times this season.

There are still three events remaining on the 15-stop mogul circuit – a longer than normal calendar for a sport that has seen a resurgence in popularity recently.

In the men’s competition, Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau of Drummondville, Quebec, just missed the podium in fourth place. Rousseau, who won six medals last season, has been struggling this season to come back after missing most of last season with injuries.

"Even though I didn’t ski well in training before the final, I got my head on straight," said the 24-year-old. "There are three contests left this year and I want to get back on that podium."

He was joined in the finals by Marc-Andre Moreau of Chambly, Quebec, who finished 12 th after crashing. Jim Schiman of Cranbrook, B.C. was 13 th .

Jeremy Bloom of the U.S. took the gold, followed by Janne Lahtela of Finland. Third went to Toby Dawson of the U.S.

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