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Swiss capture Whistler Cup

Ontario earns U14 Festival Cup

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Switzerland ran like clockwork at the 25th edition of the Mackenzie Investments Whistler Cup from April 13 to 16.

Led by women's racer Selina Egloff, who won all three individual races in which she competed, the Swiss knocked off two-time defending champion Norway for the crown. Team Canada placed third.

Swiss coach Serge Allemand was thrilled with how his squad showed in a major event across the pond.

"It was a great time in Whistler for the team. It was a great experience for the young athletes to come here, such a long trip and they raced very well," he said. "We tried to have a good team with a good choice of the best skiers we had in Switzerland to compare with the Americans and the Canadians. It was a great opportunity to make a good comparison. They did so well."

Allemand explained his racers dealt with rapidly changing snow conditions the last several weeks at home, so they were accustomed to the grab bag thrown at them here in Canada.

"This sport is always like that," he said. "You must learn to (adjust). Sometimes, you must have a change. You must be lucky with your number, with your bibs, with the weather, the fog and the snowfall.

"Ski racing is always like that. You are not racing in an environment that is sterile or where nothing happens."

On the women's side, the Swiss had a double threat as Egloff not only won all three U16 races, but Aline Hoepli hit the podium twice and took an 11th-place finish in a third race to help gather points for the team.

"Selina was amazing. She especially likes when the snow is a little bit soft. We knew she was good, but, for example, Aline was, in Switzerland, really competitive. She mostly won the races in the country and when we get to other countries, Selina was a bit more successful," Allemand said. "She's travelling a little bit easier, I don't know why.

"The journey to the next level is challenging and long, so it's good we have a core team to bring them to the next steps," he added.

Egloff, meanwhile, couldn't put any of her victories above the others, saying she was thrilled to do so well in her first time at the event.

"It's amazing that we can win the Whistler Cup. We are a good team and we had a good time in Canada," she said. "I'm happy that I can win here."

Egloff added she quite enjoyed the Canadian terrain.

"I liked the mountains very much because there's so much snow. I wanted to (stay) here longer, but we have to go home," she said.

Meanwhile, in the U14 event, Team Ontario took home the Festival Cup over Team BC and Team Australia.

In terms of individual honours for Canadians, the Nancy Greene awards went to Ontario 1's Tessa Foote (U14) and Team Canada's Cassidy Gray (U16) while the Dave Murray awards were given to Team BC 1's Heming Sola (U14) and Team Canada's Raphael Lessard (U16).

Canadians shine in individual events

Canada also picked up a victory in April 16 action, knocking off Norway in the final of the U16 team event while in the small final, Switzerland and Australia tied for third.

In the U14 women's giant slalom, a pair of Canadians hit the podium. Hungary's Noa Szollos scored the win, but Ontario 1's Foote and BC 1's Ana Large also took medals. Whistler Mountain Ski Club's (WMSC) Kaila Lafreniere capped her strong weekend with a sixth-place finish, while Ontario 1's Cadence Kiss took ninth.

In the U14 men's slalom, BC 1's Sola ended up taking the win, edging Serbia's Aleksa Tomovic and Japan's Yudai Kazazawa. Canadians also took slots five through nine, with Toronto Ski Club's Owen Clark, Ontario 1's Kyle Blanford and Christopher Burnes, BC 1's Matthias Shorter (of WMSC) and Ontario 1's Aleksas Valadka holding down those positions in order.

As for the April 15 action, Egloff earned the slalom victory on Saturday, edging out Canadian Cassidy Gray by 0.90 seconds while Hoepli took third.

For Gray, the result was her third top-10 placing in as many days, but her first podium of the weekend.

"I was just really excited. The conditions were pretty brutal all around. My first run, I had a lot of mistakes, but my second run, I just went out of the gate. Skiing in ruts is kind of my thing," she said. "I went out of the gate looking to have a good time and it worked out pretty well for me.

"My second run was better because I was finally getting used to it."

A number of other Canadians made the top 10, with Sarah Bennett and Tora Hoshizaki placing fourth and fifth respectively, while Alice Marchessault and WMSC's Maja Woolley were ninth and 10th, respectively.

On the men's side, Patrick von Siebenthal of Switzerland scored the U16 slalom win, besting Norway's Andreas Amdahl by 1.99 seconds. Australia's Henry Heaydon placed third. BC 1's Nathan Romanin of the WMSC placed fifth, Canada 2's Thomas Bilodeau ended up sixth, and Kieran Harley, of both BC 1 and the WMSC, was seventh. James Small and Logan Dunn, both of Alberta 1, were ninth and 10th.

As for the U14s, Japan's Shuto Ichimura and Australia's James Huon were close, with just 0.14 seconds separating them between gold and silver in the men's giant slalom. Serbia's Aleksa Tomovic rounded out the podium in third. Canadians made up the rest of the top 10, however, with Maximus Keller, Christopher Burnes, Heming Sola, Kyle Blanford, Owen Clark, Aleksas Valadka and Ryan Turnbull earning those slots in order.

Lastly, the U14 women tackled the dual slalom, with Australia's Penelope Hughes taking the win over WMSC's Lafreniere in the big final. Hungary's Noa Szollos edged out BC 1's Noa Rogers in the small final. A pair of WMSC teammates, Jaden Dawson and Sarah Stiel, meanwhile, made the quarterfinals and placed in the top eight.

This year, racing started on the Thursday with U16s racing the super-G. Romanin, representing Team BC, picked up a third-place finish in the opener to lead the local contingent.

Slogging through warm conditions, Romanin wasn't undone by a late start, finishing behind only Norway's Fredrik Willumsen Haug and Canada 1's Raphael Lessard.

"Starting back at 44th, it was a big surprise to come down and see that I was in third," the Squamish resident said. "The course conditions weren't exactly holding up, so that was cool.

"The guys were racing the same course as the girls, so the course was already pretty rutty by the time the guys started. It was pretty even the whole way through, but it was a lot of pressure starting that far back."

Now a veteran, Romanin explained he feels a little more comfortable each and every year.

"It's always a great experience and every year I'm striving for good results," he said. "Each year, there are less nerves and it's a fun time."

Romanin made a few mistakes in the April 14 giant slalom and did not finish.

In Thursday's race, John Daniel of Canada 2 was eighth and Logan Dunn of Alberta 1 was ninth. On the women's side, Canada 1's Gray was just a hundredth of a second off the podium in fourth while WMSC member Gigi Kranjc, representing Slovenia, was fifth. Tora Hoshizaki and Kiara Alexander, both of Canada 1, were eighth and ninth, respectively. Egloff took the win, edging a pair of Norwegians in Ine Haugland and Malin Sofie Sund.

On Friday, Egloff also captured the giant slalom, with Hoepli and Hoshizaki joining her on the podium. Fellow Canadian Alyssa Hill was fourth and Gray ended up 10th. As for the men, Switzerland's Callum Cant scored the win, sharing the podium with Chile's Diego Holscher in second and Norway's Andreas Amdahl and Canadian Lessard tying for third. Fellow Canuck Caedan Carruthers ended up in 10th.

The U14 women completed the slalom, with Argentina's Sofia Lehmann earning the win over Hungary's Noa Szollos and Ontario 1's Foote. Canadians in the top 10 included: BC 2's Abigail King and Cadence Kiss (tied for fifth), WMSC 1's Lafreniere (eighth) and Ontario 2's Maxine Van Strein (10th).

The U14 men, meanwhile, completed the dual slalom, with Japan's Shuto Ichimura taking the win over BC 2's Taylor Nellis in the big final. Heming Sola took the small final over Cameron Seward in a battle of BC 1 stars. Meanwhile, a number of Canadians made the quarterfinal, with BC 2's Clayton Dent, Ontario 2's James Gatcliffe and a pair of Ontario 1 racers in Aleksas Valadka and Christopher Burnes making it that far.

Full results are online at whistlercup.com.

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