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Bradley, Rochon win gold in Japan

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The Canadian team showed the land of the rising sun why the land of perpetual cold is a force to be reckoned with in freestyle skiing.

After years of close calls and riding shotgun, Whistler’s Tami Bradley found herself front and centre on the dual moguls podium at Iizuna Kogen, Japan (near Nagano) on Feb. 10.

Although she earned a bronze medal at the recent world championships in Whistler, silencing any doubts anyone may have had about her abilities or the abilities of the Canadian athletes, she had yet to make a dual finals or win a World Cup gold.

In a way it was a replay of the world championships, with Bradley facing off against Kari Traa of Norway in the semi-final. Traa is arguably the best mogul skier on the circuit, winning world championship gold in both single and dual moguls last month at Blackcomb.

This time, however, it was Bradley who came out ahead, skiing fearlessly, going big, and finally beating Traa to the line.

She then faced Anne Battelle of the U.S., who is no stranger to the finals, and it was another close one. But Bradley pieced together another near-perfect run to win the battle 19 points to 16.

Traa went on to claim third ahead of Aiko Uemura, the hometown favourite.

The other Canadian women also had something to write home about, with Whistler’s Kelly Ringstad and Vancouver’s Sylvia Kerfoot tying for ninth place.

Stephane Rochon, another bronze medal winner at the world championship duals, also knocked off the competition one by one to earn his first World Cup gold medal of the season and his fourth ever dual victory. Although Yugo Tsukita looked like he couldn’t lose with the whole crowd behind him, Rochon clearly had other ideas.

Japan’s Yusuke Kitamura beat out Janne Lahtela of Finland in the consolation final to earn the bronze.

Canada also netted a podium on the following day, with Quebec’s Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau taking the silver medal in the single moguls, behind Mikko Ronkainen of Finland. Rousseau had the best score in qualifying but fell a little short of the mark in the finals, finishing 0.23 points back of Ronkainen’s 27.07. Toby Dawson of the U.S. was third.

Rochon finished ninth and Ryan Johnson 11th to round out the Canadian men.

In the women’s moguls, Traa got her groove back, beating Hannah Hardaway of the U.S. by 0.05 points. Another local skier, Aiko Uemura of Nagano, took the bronze, giving Japan a total of three medals for the weekend.

Rookie Jennifer Heil was the top Canadian, finishing sixth overall. Bradley also made the finals, and ended the day in 12 th .

There is only one World Cup mogul event left on the calendar this season, which has fewer events than previous years – the finals at Himos, Finland from March 9 to 11.

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