Canada's World Cup aerials team picked up two medals and numerous top-10 results at Lake Placid this past weekend, strengthening the team's position up front in the Nations Cup standings.
In the aerials competition on Sunday, two Canadians made the podium with Kyle Nissen and Warren Shouldice in second and third place, behind Jeret Peterson of the U.S. Steve Omischl, the reigning World Cup champion, was eighth, to give Canada three athletes in the top 10.
For Nissen, who missed all of last season with ligament damage in his knee, it was a comeback moment.
"I got some good training in the last few weeks and it paid off," he said. "I felt a lot more comfortable and was able to do my two hardest jumps for the first time this season. It was a bit stressful but I had an excellent performance."
Shouldice was not making a comeback, but was wrestling with the flu all week. He landed his hardest trick, a lay triple full-full, which is a quadruple twisting triple backflip with three twists on the second flip.
"I hadn't done it since the Olympics and it's that jump that got me the medal today."
On the women's side the gold medal went to Alla Tsuper of Belarus. She was followed by Mentao Xu of China and Emily Cook of the U.S. Veronika Bauer was the top Canadian in seventh place, followed by Sabrina Guerin of the development team in ninth and Amber Peterson in 11th.
In the ski cross on Monday, Whistler's Julia Murray almost earned the team's fourth medal in as many weeks.
On a tough and tight course, Murray won her first two heats and placed second in the semifinal heat where she knocked teammate and follow Whistlerite Ashleigh McIvor - a silver medalist the previous weekend - out of the running. That put her in the final bracket, where she found herself fourth out of the gate and was unable to pass her way onto the podium.
First place went to world number one Ophelie David of France, followed by Jenny Owens of Australia and Meryl Boulangeat of France.
Fourth place is Murray's best result to date in a World Cup competition, although she had strong results in pro competitions last year.
McIvor had a tough start in the small final to finish seventh, while teammates Anik Demers-Wild, Aleisha Cline of Squamish, Danielle Poleschuk and Kelsey Serwa were 11th, 13th and 14th respectively.
On the men's side the top Canadian was Whistler's Brian Bennett in seventh place, followed by Chris DelBosco in ninth, Whistler's Davey Barr in 10th, Stanley Hayer in 14th and Brady Leman in 28th.
Lars Lewen of Sweden took the gold medal, follow by Patrick Koller of Austria and Tomas Kraus of Czech Republic.
Anderson takes world championships title
After years of frustration and giving serious thought to retirement, Jasey-Jay Anderson at last had the race he's been waiting years for at the World Championships parallel giant slalom at Gangwon, South Korea.
While Anderson took the gold medal and the title of World Champion in PGS, teammate Matthew Morison placed third for Canada. It's the first time that two Canadian athletes have shared a podium at a world championship snowboard event.
Anderson was once one of the most dominant racers and snowboardcross stars on the circuit, and had three overall World Cup globes to his credit. In recent years he's struggled with new board designs and bad luck, and found himself on the outside of races he knew he could win.
This season he's pulled it together, and has four top-10 results to his credit including a bronze medal. But it was his performance in Korea that made his comeback complete.
"The variety of terrain that we have here makes it very fun to race, even in the rough course conditions we faced," he said. "There is clear talent that needs to be used to get through the course - not once, but eight times to win the gold medal.
"For me, the past 15 years of experience came into play today," he said. "My old body is still taking care of me, but in the end it was a fun day and hopefully we put on a big show."
A win at the world championships guarantees Anderson a spot with Team Canada in 2010, as well as top tier funding from the Canadian Athlete Assistance Program. All snowboard athletes finishing in the top-16 at an Olympics or World Championships are eligible.
Morison, who already has a gold medal to his credit this season, was also happy with the result.
"Everybody on the team rode well," he said. "We had three guys in the finals (with Michael Lambert in eighth) and almost had four with Pat (Tunnifcliffe). To be able to ride so well at the world championships proves that we are ready to compete at major events and be contenders for the victory."
On the women's side, Caroline Calvé was the top Canadian in 11th, followed by Alexa Loo in 12th.
In snowboardcross, Maëlle Ricker and Tom Velisek were the top athletes with both placing fourth in their respective categories. Francois Boivin also made the final, finishing 11th.
Canadian skiers in top-10
While the medal drought for the Canadian Alpine Ski Team enters its second month - Manuel Osborne-Paradis won Canada's fourth medal of the season in a downhill on Dec. 20 - the team is consistently placing in the top-10, literally within hundredths of a second of winning medals.
At Wengen, Switzerland this past weekend, Whistler's Mike Janyk managed to place eighth in the slalom, his best result in nearly two years and his second top-10 this season. More impressive, he was sitting 30th after the first run and jumped 22 spots with the best second run of the day.
Julien Cousineau also cracked the top-10, in ninth place, just 0.02 seconds back of Janyk. Thomas Grandi was 17th and Trevor White 22nd, giving the Canadians four skiers in the top-30.
"The trend shows that we are getting to where we want to be on the tech side," said coach Paul Kristofic. "It's been there all along in training and we have all seen it. Now to start showing some strength in races is great but we've got a ways to go."
Two Canadians also cracked the top-10 in the downhill the day before. Manuel Osborne-Paradis placed fifth, just 0.26 seconds back of the podium. Jan Hudec, who was racing for the first time since he injured his knee in Wengen almost a year earlier, also cracked the top-10, finishing in eighth place. John Kucera was 14th.
"I was definitely nervous," said Hudec. "It's been a year since I skied this place and here is where I was injured so that was definitely on my mind. I took it easy in training and concentrated on getting familiar with the course.
"It was definitely an awesome race to come back at."
In the super combined event, which includes one run of slalom and a downhill, the only Canadian to crack the top-30 was Kucera, who was 21st.
While the men were at Wengen, the women's team was at Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria for downhill and super combined races.
In the super combined on Jan. 17 the top Canadian was Emily Brydon in ninth place. Larisa Yurkiw made the fastest downhill run of the day, but a poor showing in slalom left her 38th.
In the downhill, Brydon was fifth, Whistler's Britt Janyk 11th and Kelly VanderBeek 19th.
After Austria, the women's speed team headed to Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy for super G, giant slalom and two downhill races, including one of the events that was cancelled at Lake Louise in early December. The snow seemed to have followed the team, however, and the first downhill training run on Tuesday was cancelled because of a blizzard.
The men's speed team headed to Kitzbuhel, Austria for downhill, slalom, super-G and combined events. The first downhill training run was also cancelled.