Rousseau injured; Canadian freestylers net five medals
The Canadian freestyle team rounded up five medals last weekend at a moguls competition at St-Lary, France, and an aerials competition at Mont Tremblant.
The mogul team got some bad news on Jan. 10 when Olympic contender Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau of Drummondville, Quebec, crashed during a training run in the French Alps. At a nearby hospital, Rousseau underwent surgery to use a piece of his hip bone to replace a cracked vertebrae in his upper back.
"Im not ruling anything out," said the 21 year old of his chances to return in time to compete in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. "Theres nothing I can do at the moment, so I just have to take it one day at a time.
"My grandmother had a back operation and shes 82, and she was walking the next week."
Rousseaus injury was the second to hit the team in a week after Jim Schiman of Cranbrook injured his knee in Germany.
If there was a silver lining to the cloud, it was the surprise bronze medal performance of Calgarys Ryan Johnson.
"Im back," said the 27 year old. "Its been five years. The last time I medalled was in 1997 in Tignes, France. So todays result was totally encouraging."
The result puts him in better contention for a spot on the Olympic team, where hes competing with Scott Bellvance and Ann Marie Pelchat, provided that Rousseau is able to compete.
American freestyle legend Jonny Mosely, who came out of retirement this season after calling it quits after winning gold at the 1998 Olympics, took the top spot on the podium with a score of 27.28. Fredrik Fortkord of Sweden won silver with a 27.10, and Johnson edged out Janne Lahtela of Finland to take third with a 27.01. Quebec skiers Jean-Luc Brassard and Stephane Rochon, who have already qualified for the Olympics, finished in eighth and 11 th respectively.
In the womens competition, Kari Traa of Norway continued to dominate the standings with yet another win. Marina Cherkasova of Russia was second, followed by Shannon Bahrke of the U.S.
Ann Marie Pelchat of Levis, Quebec, was seventh for Canada, while Jennifer Heil of Spruce Grove, Alberta, was 12 th .
On the following day, Scott Bellavance of Prince George had his say, and clinched the fourth and final berth on the Canadian Olympic freestyle team with an eight place finish. Rochon and Brassard were fifth and sixth in the standings.
"Its been tough for me, I havent been sleeping well," said Bellavance of his long road to the Olympics. "After my fifth place at Steamboat there seemed to be a good gap (between Bellavance and other potential Olympians), but Ryan closed the gap."