Air Force goes four for four at World Cup opener
It was a golden beginning for the Canadian Freestyle Ski Team at Mt. Buller in Australia Sept. 7 and 8, with four gold medals in two days of aerials competition.
For the second year in a row, the World Cup season opener took place in blizzard conditions, with high winds and blinding snow.
On day one of the competition, the mens and womens aerials were cut down to one jump per competitor, from the usual two jumps, in order to ensure that every athlete could get a turn during short lulls in the weather.
In the mens competition, Ottawas Jeff Bean was so happy to be back on snow that he could do no wrong.
"I love it," he said. "I really dislike the water ramp part of the sport. Landing on water hurts, but landing on snow is really like stepping off a chair even though youre flying 50 feet in the air."
Bean score a 104.01 for his triple-twisting, double-flip jump. Alexis Grichin of Belarus, the Olympic bronze medallist, was second with a 101.70. Eric Bergoust of the United States was third with a 99.75.
Canadian legend Nicolas Fontaine of Magog, Quebec, just missed the top five, finishing sixth with a 96.02. Also for Canada, Steve Omischl of North Bay Ontario was 17 th .
Veronika Bauer of Toronto didnt enjoy the snow as much as Bean, but was solid in her execution of a double-twisting double somersault.
"Its pretty scary when its windy and the conditions are sketchy, and I let it get to me last year," said Bauer.
She scored an 89.77 on her jump, pushing Australia native Lydia Ierodiaconou into second with her 85.52. The bronze went to Anna Zukal of Russia with an 85.05.
Also for Canada, Olympic bronze medallist Deidra Dionne of Red Deer, Alberta, was eighth. Veronica Brenner of Sharon, Ontario, the Olympic silver medallist, was 10th.
The athletes managed to squeeze in the full two jumps on day two of the competition, but in even higher winds than the day before.
Bauer, still confident after her previous days jump, put down two strong jumps to finish with a combined score of 173.72.
"Because of the winds I was nervous and scared, but I just trusted my coaches," she said.
She once again upset an Australian favourite, Olympic gold medallist Alisa Camplin, who finished second with a 169.35. Third place went to Nannan Xu of China.
Veronica Brenner was sixth and Deidra Dionne 12 th for Canada.
The mens competition went to Steve Omischl, the first World Cup gold medal of his career. While he was excited by his win, he acknowledged that the conditions were far from perfect.
"I won by five points but it was an ugly contest, probably the toughest Ive ever competed in," he said, estimating that the winds were gusting well over 70 kilometres per hour.
"They were probably the strongest winds Ive ever seen. If it was a training day, we definitely wouldnt have jumped."
Omischl led the day with his hardes jump, a quad-twisting triple somersault, and was in third behind Olympic silver medallist Joe Pack of the U.S. and Christian Rijavec of Austria.
His second jump of the day was almost flawless, however, and catapulted him into the lead with a score of 225.99. Rijavec came second in 220.43, and Pack third with a 219.61.
Jeff Bean came close for Canada, finishing fourth overall. Kyle Nissen of Calgary was ninth and Nicolas Fontaine 17 th .
For the coaching team of Dennis and Andy Capicik, who retired after last season, it was a stellar start to the season.
Said Bauer: "Coming out and getting all four wins, I think thats an awesome job."
The Canadian team returns to North America this week to train at Lake Placid. The freestyle World Cup season resumes in November with moguls and SkiCross events at Tignes, France.