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Austrian sweeps Whistler Cup races

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Benbow, Fortin-Houle lead Canadian team

Spectators got a glimpse into the future of Alpine racing last weekend at the 10 th annual Sierra Wireless-Air Canada Whistler Cup juvenile ski races.

If the results are any indication of what we might see on the World Cup circuit in the next five to 10 years, then Canada looks strong, Croatia and U.S. will emerge as forces to be reckoned with, and Austria will continue to reign as the first nation of skiing. One Austrian racer, Kathrin Triendl, won the gold medal in all three K2 events.

Strong performances were also given by teams from Norway, Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

The 2002 Whistler Cup featured almost 300 racers from 17 different countries in the K1 (age 11 and 12) and K2 (age 13 and 14) categories. For many North Americans competitors, it’s their first exposure to European skiers and their passion for the sport.

The competition got underway under sunny skies on April 5 with a slushy super G on Whistler Mountain’s Raven-Ptarmigan run for the K2s.

For the girls, Kathrin Triendl took the gold medal with a time of one minute 1.88 seconds. Racing for the B.C. Team, Whistler’s Kendall Benbow, 14, won the silver medal in 1:02.77.

"This is amazing, I’m so overwhelmed right now," said Benbow, who was competing in her fourth, and last, Whistler Cup competition. "I knew it was a really rough course and it’s hard to know if you’ve hard a good run. When I finished I wasn’t sure where I placed but knew I had a good run. I wasn’t expecting a silver but I’m really happy and excited."

Third place went to Julia McClean of New Zealand in 1:02.90.

While Benbow was the only Canadian to crack the top 15 on Friday, four made it into the top 20. Cynthia Tessier of Quebec was 16 th , Whistler’s Allison Leighon was 17 th , Calgary’s Melissa Yarmaloy was 19 th and Michele Bélanger of Quebec was 20 th .

The Canadian contingent got another nice surprise in the men’s super G, with Francis Fortin-Houle, 14, of Repentigny, Quebec finishing in third place with a time of 1:00.41. Right behind in fourth place was Simon Mannella of Piedmont, Quebec, in 1:01.09.

"This event is a like a little World Cup race for juveniles," observed Fortin-Houle. "It’s important to see Austria and other countries up close like on the World Cup circuit. These international events have a much stronger field, so I was aiming for a top 10. Finishing third is amazing."

Tin Siroki of Croatia took the gold medal in 0:59.85, the fastest time of the day. Florian Scheiber of Austria finished with the silver medal in 1:00.36.

Two other Canadians cracked the top 10. Ryan Foote of Edmonton was seventh, followed by Whistler’s own Matthew Holler. Vincent Gilbert-Dore. of Montreal was 12 th , Tyler Nella of Toronto was 14 th , and Calvin White of Edmonton was 18 th to round out the top 20.

Canada would not win any medals on day two or three of the competition, but would continue to post strong results.

In the K2 women’s slalom on April 6, Austria’s Triendl went on to win her second gold medal of the weekend with a combined time of 1:22.97, more than 2.3 seconds faster than the second place finisher, Martine Remsoy of Norway. Third place belonged to Sterling Grant of the U.S.

In the top 20 for Canada were Melissa Yarmaloy in ninth, Erica Watts of Ontario in 10 th , Cynthia Tessier of Quebec in a three-way tie for 13 th , Caroline Brault of Quebec in 19 th , and Kayla Birdgeneau of Alberta in 20 th . Right behind, in 21 st through 23 rd , were Jennifer Graham and Nicole Burgess of Ontario and Whistler’s Allison Leighton. Julia Murray of Whistler was 26 th .

The K2 men’s slalom went to Stefan Baumgartner of Austria in 1:24.43. Mark Mikos of the U.S. made it close in 1:24.47, while Florian Scheiber of Austra finished third in 1:25.58.

In sixth for Canada was Francis Fortin-Houle in 1:27.65. Vincent Gilbert-Dore was 14 th , Jonathan Meier of Alberta was 16 th , Viktor Hlas of Manitoba was 17 th . Whistler skiers Conrad Pridy, Rey Stanislas and Matthew Holler were 20 th through 22 nd . Derek Tsui, Ryan Vaisler and Ng Benz of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club finished 25th, 26 th and 28 th .

In the K1 women’s giant slalom, Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein took the win in 50.64. She was trailed by a pair of Norwegians, Nina Loseth and Thea Hovde, who finished second and third with times of 51.05 and 51.52.

For Canada, Kate Ryley of Toronto was 13 th , Anya Holinski of Edmonton, was 14 th and Jennifer Welton of Ontario was 15 th . Whistler racers Alison Matasi and Jennifer Mah were 18 th and 19 th , and Marie-Elaine Lepine of Quebec finished 20 th .

Canadians Kelly McBroom of Alberta, Connie Farmer of Ontario and Brianne Ormerod of Quebec just missed the top 20, finishing 21 st through 23 rd respectively.

The K1 men’s race went to Andrew Phillips of the U.S. Eian Sandvik and Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway were second and third. Trevor Rose of Windermere was the top Canadian in ninth place. Phillipe Laverdure of Quebec was 10 th and Graham Wilson of Ontario 11 th . Also in the top 20 were Kelby Halbert and Jesse Shepherd of Ontario in 16 th and 17 th , Anthony Galardo of Quebec in 18 th , Morgan Pridy of Whistler in 19 th , and Christian conner and Brandon Mudryk in 20 th and 21 st .

Kyle Coxon, Daniel Penn and North Jones of the WMSC were 23 rd through 25 th , and teammate Scott Harrison was 20 th . Nat Cohen and Jesse Kliman of Mt. Washington tied for 30 th .

There were four more races on the final day of competition, including the K2 GS and the K1 slalom.

Although it’s not her best event, the women’s K2 GS and a third gold medal went to Triendl of Austria in a time of 48.97. "Three gold medals, it’s wonderful," she said. "I was most happy with my slalom win because it’s not by best discipline."

Julia McClean of New Zealand chalked up a surprise silver medal for the Kiwi’s with a time of 49.35. "We didn’t do very well last year, so it was pretty important to get a medal," she said. "Our goal was top 10."

In third was Matea Ferk of Croatia in 49.62 seconds.

Whistler’s Kendall Benbow just missed the podium finishing in fourth with a time of 29.93.

"I can definitely tell I’ve improved over the years, that I’m getting a little better every year," said Benbow. "This is the race for us. I was lucky that I peaked at the right time and gave it all I had."

While it’s nice to race at home, Benbow chalks her results up to hard work rather than home field advantage. "We don’t get to train much on the actual racehills, so we’re pretty even with the skiers coming here from other countries. It’s really anyone’s race."

The last race of the season is the Zone finals at Mt. Washington next week. After that Benbow says she will start her dryland training in preparation for next season, when she will join the WMSC’s FIS team.

Also for Canada, Carmel McElroy of Alberta was seventh, Melissa Yarmaloy 11 th , Erica Watts of Ontario 16 th , Caroline Brault of Quebec 17 th , Jennifer Graham 20 th , Kristen Timusk of Ontario 21 st , Samantha Rosen of Ontario 25 th , and Danielle Robson of the WMSC 30 th .

The men’s K2 GS went to Florian Scheiber of Austria, followed by Tim Siroki of Croatia and Mark Mikos of the U.S.

Simon Mannella of Quebec was the top Canadian in eighth. Tyler Nella was 10 th , Calvin White of Alberta was 12 th , and Ryan Foote, Vincent Gilbert-Dore, and Whistler’s Matthew Holler were 19 th through 21 st . Fortin-Houle finished 24 th despite a crash on the course.

Janka Gantnerova of Slovaki claimed the K1 women’s slalom in 1:20.93. Nina Loseth of Norway was second, and Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein third to earn their second Whistler Cup medals. Killy McBroom was seventh, WMSC racer Jennifer Mah was ninth, Elli Terwiel of Trail was 10 th , Marie-Elaine Lepine of Quebec was 12 th , Elaine Duquet of Quebec was 16 th , and Britney Freeman on Ontario was 17 th .

Nine other Canadian cracked the top 30. From the WMSC, Alison Matasi was 22 nd , Katrina Dekur 25 th , Sarah Marshall 26 th , Carolyn Caldwell 28 th and Deborah Bayliss 30 th . Kate Ryley, Brianne Ormerod, Connie Farmer and Stephanie McKichin also made it.

The men’s K1 slalom went to Adam Zika of the Czech Republic, followed by Eian Sandvik of Norway and Jakub Ostrihon of Slovakia.

For Canada, Trevor Rose of Windermere was sixth, Graham Wilson of Ontario seventh, Morgan Pridy of Whistler eighth, Christian Conner of Alberta 10 th , Kelby Halbert of Ontario 11 th , Phillipe Laverdure of Quebec 14 th , Mathieu Routhier of Quebec 15 th , Kyle Coxon of Whistler 16 th , Nat Cohen of Vernon 17 th , Alexander Chlum of Big White 18 th , and Corey Willis of Cypress 20 th .

Also in the top 30 were Garrett Helfrich of Seymour, Casey Wenzel of Big White, Ben Cohen and Christopher Green of the WMSC, Ben Cohen of Vernon, Jamie Bridge of Mt. Washington, Douglas Blissett of Vernon, Matt Lively of Grouse and Daniel Newmarch of Big White.

The Nations Cup went to Austria with 258 points. Norway was second with 242, and the U.S. third with 207. Canada finished in eight place overall, down four spots from last year.

The Provincial Cup went to Quebec with 318 points. B.C. was second with 257, and Ontario third with 252.

Kendall Benbow won the Nancy Greene Trophy as the best overall Canadian female skier. Francis Fortin-Houle won the Dave Murray Trophy as the top Canadian male.

Complete results and analysis of the Whistler Cup are available at the B.C. Alpine Web site, www.bcalpine.com .