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Canadians rule freestyle worlds

Eight championship titles in Utah



Canada's reputation as the first nation of freestyle skiing has never been more deserved, with the team dominating at the FIS Freestyle World Championships in Utah. All told, the team finished the week with a record eight titles out of a possible 12 - women's moguls, men's and women's ski cross, men's aerials, men's and women's halfpipe, and men's and women's dual moguls. The total medal haul included eight out of 12 medals in moguls, three medals in ski cross, three in halfpipe, one in slopestyle and one in aerials - a total of 16 podium appearances by 13 Canadian athletes. It's also worth noting 28 results in the top 10.

Peter Judge, the CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, gave most of the credit to the athletes, but also noted how strong the program is with additional funding and support for the team through initiatives like Own the Podium.

"I think our success is rooted in both the athletes' passion for their sports and a systemic approach to sport development and high performance," he said. "Most importantly, all the athletes, regardless of their discipline, are fully committed to being the best that they can be - the best in the world in their sports -and the system is now fully there to support them."

Leading the pack was Jennifer Heil, winning both the single and dual moguls titles. Just two weeks earlier Heil announced that she would retire at the end of the 2010-2011 season.

While she's clearly still at the top of her game, Heil said the back-to-back titles won't prompt her to change her decision - if anything, she said the combined results of her teammates make it easier to leave to complete her education and follow through on personal goals, like raising $1 million for amateur sport from corporate Canada.

"The team is in such great shape, and that's not a fluke," she said. "It's pretty exciting the change we've created in sport in this country... we've invested, targeted and focused on excellence and now we are seeing the results, it shows what we are capable of as a nation."

Alexandre Bilodeau came away with two medals in men's moguls, including one world title, while teammate Mikael Kingsbury - a rookie - earned two medals.

The first event was the single moguls competition on Feb. 2.

The Canadian women took two out of three medals, with Jennifer Heil winning gold and Summerland's Kristi Richards in third. Audrey Robichaud, on the podium the first time the previous week in Calgary, also made the finals and placed 10th.

American Hannah Kearney, who has won all five World Cup single moguls competitions coming into the worlds, had to settle for second place.

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