The World Cups are finished. Everyone returned home from Europe with more experience, more FIS points, more podiums, and, most importantly, no injuries.
The Krieschberg World Cup that took place in mid-January was not very fruitful for the Canadian team. Although three men made the halfpipe finals, eighth place was the best the boys could muster. No Canadian women made finals. The six podiums from the previous week’s snowboardcross events in Bad Gastein didn’t quite replicate in halfpipe.
The alpine and snowboardcross teams drove south to Italy to the resort of Kronplatz, and we had a day off between the madness of traveling and competing.
Rene Brunner, our snowboardcross coach, Marilyn Hellier, our physio, my teammate Erin Simmons, and I all strapped on our snowboards for a gorgeous day of riding at the Sella Ronda. The Sella Ronda is actually a string of ski resorts that circle a section of the Dolomites.
If you so desired you could do a complete circuit around the mountains, but we opted to only do a section of journey. Even though the snow wasn’t ideal, the sunny skies and breathtaking views made the day a huge success. It’s always nice to have a day where you can be a true tourist while on the road.
The snowboardcross course at Kronplatz was a drag race. It was short, didn’t have many passing opportunities, and the start was tricky. When you pulled out of the gate, you were faced with two jumps that shot you up in the air and then sent you down onto the flats. Because you landed flat, the best line was to throw a speed check between the two jumps and hope to hit some sort of landing to generate speed for the first banked corner.
The third corner was the crux of the course. It had five rollers throughout the turn and created enormous difficulties for most of the field. It was impossible to come into the turn at full throttle and generate more speed from the corner like you would normally do.
The ones who tried paid the price dearly. Xavier Delerue, the current World Cup tour leader, went full boar and broke his ankle. Mellie Francon, winner of the second race in Bad Gastein, also injured her ankle. Shaun Palmer, who just qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team with a silver medal performance in Bad Gastein, also went down hard on the course. He blew out his achilles tendon and won’t be able to compete in Torino. Hopefully Xavier and Mellie will rehabilitate quickly and be healthy for the Games.
No Canadians were injured. No Canadians were on the podium. Our best placings were from Jasey-Jay and Dominique Maltais – they both won their small final and finished fifth.
Drew Neilson and Francois Boivin were not able to compete. They both made it past the time trials but were struck with food poisoning the night before the finals.
The big story from Kronplatz was the next day in the parallel giant slalom. Alexa Loo rode like a champion – she qualified first in the morning and then dominated the finals in the afternoon. A few of us were at the bottom of the course watching our teammate blow minds. It was as if she flicked a switch and turned on the turbo boosters. Mark Fawcett, Alexa and Jasey’s coach, had worked with her all week and knew she was riding well.
In the semi-finals Alexa was up against the current tour leader, Daniela Meulli of Switzerland.
In PGS you have to race two rounds to see who moves on in the head-to-head format, and each rider must race on both the red course and on the blue course.
Alexa won the first round by eight one hundredths of a second and had a tiny lead for the second race against Daniela. Unfortunately Daniela got her by a tenth of a second at the bottom of the hill. So close!
Alexa’s day wasn’t over. She won the race for the bronze medal against U.S. rider Michelle Gargone.
This was the first female World Cup medal for Canada in the alpine discipline, going back more than a decade. Alexa has also made history by becoming the first woman to make the Olympic team in the alpine discipline.
Right now the three Canadian teams are spread out over North America. The halfpipe team is currently training in the lower pipe on Blackcomb, the alpine team is training out east at Mont Tremblant, and the snowboardcross team is down in Aspen racing in the X-Games.
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Because of the Olympic media guidelines, I won’t be able to write any updates until after the Games are finished. I hope you have a great February!