Young racers do it for Canada 

More than 300 athletes expected for Whistler Cup

In its 11 th year, the Sierra Wireless Air Canada Whistler Cup has proven its value as a stepping stone for young athletes into high performance programs.

A majority of the young members on the Canadian Alpine Ski Team met their first real international competition in the Whistler Cup and at the juvenile races in Topolino, Italy, and decided that they could compete at that level. National athletes like Genevieve Simard, Allison Forsyth, Emily Brydon, Erik Guay and Jean-Philippe Roy have competed in the Whistler Cup.

"It was my first international competition and it really opened my eyes to know how good all the other racers in the world were," remembers Forsyth. "It was a good learning experience for me.

"The Whistler Cup was the first time we had the chance to race as a country. I actually didn’t qualify for the Canadian group and raced for B.C., so maybe that shows the depth of these races."

Internationally, the Whistler Cup has been a stepping stone in the careers of racers like world champions Anja Paerson of Sweden, Karen Putzer of Italy, Tina Maze of Slovenia, and Nicole Hosp and Benjamin Raich of Austria.

The Whistler Cup will bring more than 300 racers from 19 nations to Whistler for three days of racing, April 4 to April 6.

There are categories for K1s (age 11 and 12) and the K2s, (age 13 and 14), and the races will include a K2 super G, and slalom and giant slalom events for K1s and K2s.

The Whistler Cup is sanctioned by Alpine Canada Alpin (ACA), and organized by B.C. Alpine and the Whistler Mountain Ski Club.

While the events are international, the hope is that these events will inspire young Canadians to take the next step.

"Young Canadians deserve to compete at home against the world’s best, and to have the resources and quality development system that will make them champions," said ACA President Ken Read. "This event showcases our best juvenile racers who one day we hope will bring Olympic glory to Canada."

Canada will be well-represented in the events with the cream of the crop racing for their country, and other top racers representing their provincial teams.

Last season Whistler’s Kendall Benbow turned heads as she earned two top-five finishes, including a silver medal in the women’s super G against more than 40 other strong competitors. In doing so, Benbow became only the seventh Canadian in the history of the Whistler Cup to win a medal.

Francis Fortin-Houle of Repentigny, Quebec won bronze in the giant slalom to boost Canada to a best ever 20 top-10 finishes over 10 events.

The selections for the Canadian team are impressive this year, and the provincial teams look strong as well.

On the girl’s team, some athletes to watch for include Calgary’s Kayla Leman, Caroline Brault of Piedmont, Quebec, and Larissa Yurkiw of Owen Sound, Ontario. All three athletes won medals at the Mars Canadian Juvenile Championships in March, and all have Whistler Cup experience. In 2001, Yurkiw won the Nancy Greene Trophy as the top Canadian in the K1 category in 2001.

The boy’s K2 team will be anchored by Whistler Mountain Ski Club K2 Matt Holler. The Vancouver native won two gold medals and finished fourth twice at the recent juvenile championships to lead the B.C. Team. He also posted a top-10 in the Whistler Cup last season.

Philippe Belzile-Crete and Simon Mannella of Quebec, ranked first and second after the juveniles, are also looking good.

Representing Canada at the K1 level are Karel Bouchard of Mont St-Sauveur, Quebec, Whistler’s Victoria Whitney, Kelby Halbert of the Toronto Ski Club, and Tristan Tafel of the Banff Alpine Racers.

You can follow the races in person, or by visiting the ACA and Whistler Cup Web sites at www.canski.org or www.whistlercup.com.

Race awards will be presented every afternoon in the village, and the athlete awards and team awards presented on Sunday.

Schedule:

Friday, April 4 – K2 super G

Saturday, April 5 – K1 giant slalom; K2 slalom

Sunday, April 6 – K1 slalom; K2 giant slalom

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