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Canadians rule world ski invitational

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A17-year old from Ontario almost walks away with it all

Big crowds for big air

New school skiers emptied the full bag of tricks in the World Ski Invitational Orage Big Air contest on April 14, with many of them competing for the biggest crowd – more than 5,000 spectators – and the biggest prize purse – $25,000 – of their new careers.

With a steep takeoff, a steep landing, and more than 50 feet separating the two, skiers had a lot of time to execute difficult manoeuvres and a lot of incentive to land them. Tricks included 720s with mute grabs, switch 900s with flairs (skis crossed behind the back, huge 1080s, Corked (semi-inverted) 720s, D-spin 720s (inverted), mobius flips (inverted 360s), rodeos (partially inverted backflips with 360s), and Skodeo 540s (a switch rodeo with an extra half spin). Grabs, switch takeoffs and switch landings meant extra points, so competitors tweaked everything in sight and made full use of their twin-tips.

And land they did. After the qualifying jumps, just over three points separated the top score from the 10th.

Only the top five out of 20 competitors moved on to an all-Canadian semi-finals, led all the way by 17-year-old David Crichton of Manotick, Ontario. Vincent Dorion of St. Jerome, Quebec – only 21 himself and one of the founding fathers of the new school movement – was second. Phil Belanger, 20, of Quebec City was third, Rex Thomas, 21, of Nelson but living in Whistler, was fourth. JF Cusson, 23, of Montreal – another founding father – took the fifth and final spot.

In the two-run semi-final – where only your best jump counts – Crichton was once again flawless, posting the two highest scores of the round. Dorion also nailed both jumps to take the second spot, and JF Cusson was good for the third spot. Both Thomas and Belanger had problems with switch landings and loose skis, and had to sit out for the finals.

Crichton’s day fell apart when he over-rotated his jump, and after leading the competition from the start he had to settle for third place and $2,500 in prize money. A day later, when asked if winning the slopestyle took some of the sting out of the big air crash, he replied: "No… but yesterday will still be a pretty good accomplishment for me.

"It’s pretty crazy. There were more people there than at all the other competitions combined, and a crowd definitely does pump you up and get you going, push you to do something that maybe you wouldn’t have done. It was a great contest."

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