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Canadians ready for World Championships

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More than 300 athletes will be in town for one of freestyle skiing’s biggest events

Whether you’re into bumps or jumps, the 2001 FIS Freestyle World Ski Championships boasts some of the strongest competition ever assembled.

More than 300 athletes representing almost 20 different countries will be in Whistler from Jan. 15 to 21, competing in single moguls, dual moguls, and aerials championship events. This is the first time Canada has hosted the Freestyle World Ski Championships and the first time Whistler has hosted an FIS World Championship event.

And Canada, as usual, is looking good. Despite the apparent Finnish stranglehold on the moguls podium – led by Janne Lahtela – Canada boasts some of the strongest mogul skiers in the world. The list includes 1994 Olympic gold-medalist and two-time world champion Jean-Luc Brassard. Stephane Rochon, and Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau have also won their share of medals, and Rousseau finished last season as the top Canuck, in third place overall.

Internationally, watch for reigning world champion Lahtela, who won both the single and dual moguls championships last season. Finnish teammates Lauri Lassila and Sami Mustonen are also strong contenders, finishing second and third at the previous World Championships behind Lahtela. The 1998 Olympic gold medalist, Jonny Mosely of the U.S., is also coming out of semi-retirement this season.

On the women’s side, Tami Bradley of Vancouver/Whistler hopes to build on the best season of her career as the top Canadian woman in both single and dual moguls, placing sixth and seventh overall, including two bronze medals. Look for strong supporting performances from three-year World Cup veteran Sylvia Kerfoot of Vancouver, and rookies Jennifer Heil, Jennifer Simm and Rachel Belliveau. Heil won last year’s national championships in both single and dual moguls.

Ann Batelle of the U.S. won the overall title last season, Sweden’s Marja Elfman is in a good spot after wining six medals, and Kari Traa of Norway was the top-ranked dual moguls skier.

In the aerials competition, Canada is sitting pretty with two men in the top three – Steve Omischl (second) and Andy Capicik (third) – and the return of Nicolas Fontaine, who has won the overall World Cup title for the past four seasons.

Eric Bergoust of the U.S. is currently ranked number one in the world. Dmitri Dashinski and Alexei Grichin of Belarus have been on a tear recently, earning four podiums last season, and American Joe Pack is also off to a strong start this season after winning on Blackcomb in December.

On the women’s side, Toronto’s Veronika Bauer is currently ranked second behind Jacqui Cooper of Australia (who dominated the World Cup tour last season), and rookie Diedre Dionne is off to a great start with a silver medal finish at Blackcomb. Canada’s Veronica Brenner, who was ranked number two overall last season, is out of competition at the moment after tearing MCL and ACL ligaments in training.

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