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Canadians off to strong start at Crankworx

Sports briefs: Tsubota caps season with bronze; WBFSC shines at nationals



The Canadian contingent is showing few signs of winter rust at Crankworx Rotorua.

On the women's side, Casey Brown and Vaea Verbeeck each have hit a pair of podiums in New Zealand at the mountain bike festival's first of four 2018 tour stops.

Brown won the Giant Toa Enduro, besting Australia's Ronja Hill-Wright by two minutes and Verbeeck by nearly three minutes.

"I love racing without really knowing what's coming up. It was exciting, to say the least," Brown said in a release. "Then I had a pretty wild Stage Six. Me and Vaea (Verbeeck) had a pileup. That was exciting. These tracks are so great around here and the weather has been so good compared to last year. Beautiful cool breeze and overcast. Couldn't ask for a better day. Super stoked."

The men's podium (and top 20 finishers, for that matter) was all Kiwis all the time, as Keegan Wright knocked off Sam Blenkinsop and Matt Walker.

The Canadian women also excelled in the Redwoods Downhill, with Verbeeck earning the win, nicking Brown by 0.23 seconds and American juggernaut Jill Kintner by 7.48 seconds.

Verbeeck crashed twice in the same spot in training, but managed to handle herself when the chips were down on a course she loved.

"Such a fun track," she said in a release. "A track where you can push for speed is just my style. If it had been a really gnarly, steep track that was super physically demanding, I don't know if I would have been super stoked right after the Enduro, but because this track was so fun I just lapped, lapped, lapped and got to learn it, then pushed for speed. It was awesome."

The men's draw saw Blenkinsop score the victory over fellow New Zealander Brook MacDonald by 2.82 seconds and Australian Mick Hannah by 4.84 seconds.

No Canadians medalled in the first-ever 100 per cent Dual Slalom Rotorua, though. Kintner edged out fellow American Kialani Hines while Great Britain's Tahnee Seagrave was third. As for the men, Czech rider Tomas Slavik bested American Kyle Strait in the final while American Luca Cometti was third.

Crankworx runs until March 25.

Tsubota caps season with medal

Whistler freestyler Yuki Tsubota scored a solid end to her FIS World Cup season in Italy on March 16.

In the final slopestyle event of the year, Tsubota posted an even 80 to place third in the Seiser Alm event, trailing only American Caroline Claire (84) and Great Britain's Isabel Atkin (80.40).

Tsubota struggled on her first run, but came through in her second attempt to secure some hardware.

"I wasn't able to land my first run and it's not a situation that I like to be in because it puts more stress on my last run, but I was able to pull it together so I am really happy. I ended up doing the same run that I did in qualifiers for my last run, it was something that I knew I could land really clean, which is what the judges were looking for at this contest, they wanted to see grabs and slide all the rails and do something on every feature," Tsubota explained.

"It was a great season for me, it was really nice to finish it up on the podium, which I haven't been on in two seasons. I worked on my switch 9 and was able to complete it at the Olympics, which was a really big highlight for me,"

Tsubota was the top Canadian slopestyler in PyeongChang, finishing sixth.

Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Team shines at nationals

The Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Team impressed at Canadian Junior Championships at Apex Mountain Resort earlier this month.

A number of team members scored medals in the moguls and double moguls events.

In the U14 women's division, Lynette Conn topped the podium, while Emilia Oziewicz and Brooke Armstrong were eighth and ninth, respectively.

In the U16 division, Whistler resident Maya Mikkelsen, now on the BC Team, won gold while Cassidy Butterworth took fifth.

And in U18, Jessica Linton went home with bronze.

As for the boys, Philip Kang scored silver at the U14 level while Oscar van Dongen was just off the podium in fourth. Meanwhile, Daniel Gannon was 12th, Flynn Mooney 16th and Owen Scarth 20th.

In U16, Josh Maga took 13th and Adam Dupray was 26th while in U18, BC Team member Sam Cordell placed fifth.

In dual moguls, meanwhile, Armstrong took U14 bronze, Butterworth earned U16 gold and Linton won U18 silver.

Field wraps NCAA career at nationals

Pemberton's Charley Field completed her NCAA alpine skiing career at the NCAA Skiing Championships at Steamboat Springs, Colo. earlier this month.

Field, in her fourth year at the University of Alaska at Anchorage (UAA), started strong with a 14th-place finish in the women's giant slalom before finishing 29th in the slalom.

She helped UAA to a ninth-place finish in the overall team event. Denver University took the overall title.