Sport Shorts: Seven-Medal Freestyle Edition
It was a seven-medal haul over the weekend by Canada’s freestyle skiers. This was despite the freestyle aerial skiers – medal contenders in any competition – not reaching the podium in their World Cup in Calgary.
Here we recap your medal-winning freestyle skiers from the past three days, in hopes they paint the town red with similar success in Vancouver next month.
Jenn Heil: In Calgary, no woman beat Jenn Heil in freestyle moguls. She collected two more World Cup gold medals to add to her sparkling resume. That includes Olympic gold in 2006, two World Championship gold medals, four overall World Cup moguls titles and 10 national titles. At the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, she will go for gold in the first few days. If successful, she will become only the fourth Canadian athlete (outside of women’s hockey) to successfully defend Olympic gold – and the first Canadian skier of any kind.
Ashleigh McIvor: The reigning world ski cross champion won gold at a World Cup in Les Contamines, France. Ski cross features four skiers hurtling down a course of jumps and twists, the first to cross the finish line declared winner. And on Sunday, that was McIvor, handily defeating the World Cup overall leader Ophelie David of France. McIvor, a former alpine skier, said she is drawn to the unpredictability, the speed and the unbridled fun of ski cross. And she loves the “roller coaster” atmosphere of the Cypress Mountain Olympic venue. Here’s hoping that amusement park fun guides her well.
Julia Murray: In the same race with McIvor, Murray blasted across the finish line second to capture silver. She has strong athletic lineage. Her father, Dave, is a two-time Olympic skier and member of the famous “Crazy Canucks” alpine team. Her mother, Stephanie Sloan, is a three-time world champion who has competed in moguls, aerials, and “ballet” skiing. In her hometown of Whistler, Murray will look to be in peak form on the hills she knows so well.
Stanley Hayer: Hayer also collected a silver medal in ski cross in Les Contamines. He will look to recapture the magic of 2007, when he won silver at the World Championships in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy. Ironically, one of his favourite activities is motocross – which is exactly how McIvor described (“motocross on skis”) the sport of ski cross.
Alexandre Bilodeau: Montreal’s Bilodeau won silver in Calgary in moguls, behind Canadian-born Dale Begg-Smith, who competes now for Australia. Last year in Inawashiro, Japan, Bilodeau struck a career-high mark in becoming world dual moguls champion. His five gold medals last season powered him to the World Cup overall title. He will be a strong medal threat at Cypress, looking to improve on an 11th-place finish in 2006, which was his rookie year on the world circuit.
Vincent Marquis: Yet another strong Canadian moguls skier captured silver on Friday in Calgary. Marquis is a definite force, having won bronze at the 2009 World Championships. Marquis is setting a fine example for his younger brother, Philippe, also a national freestyle skier. Keep watch for a talented Bilodeau-Marquis combination at the 2010 Games.
Elsewhere: On Friday, Mellisa Hollingsworth extended her World Cup overall lead in skeleton by winning gold in Germany. On Saturday, Kaillie Humphries teamed with Heather Moyse to win World Cup silver in bobsleigh. Sunday, Alex Gough rocketed to a strong 6th in luge at a World Cup. Also Sunday, Ivan Babikov was Canada’s top cross-country skier during the gruelling Tour de Ski event, finishing 4th on the last stage – good for 9th overall.