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Freestyle club reaches heights at Apex

New coach likes what he sees out of local skiers



They had plenty of muscle to flex at Apex.

The Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club snagged a whopping 47 medals overall in three days of action on the first Timber Tour and Superyouth stop of the year, held from Jan. 8 to 10.

Head coach Jeff Fairbairn was encouraged with what he saw, not just in the final numbers, but in the participants' enthusiasm.

"The cool thing (was) they were motivated. They were having fun. They wanted to perform. They looked very genuine," he said. "They had a genuine sense of having a good time and it translated into the results."

In the opening Timber Tour slopestyle event, Alexander Zastre topped the U18 podium, as did Oscar Blyte in the U16 event while Kai Smart, Kai Martin, and Stephen Lindsay-Ross swept the U14 men's podium. On the women's side, Michelle MacPherson and Maia Schwinghammer took the top two spots on the U16 podium, while Skye Clarke, Josephine Howell and Cassidy Butterworth swept the U14 one.

As for the moguls competition, Sam Cordell took third in the U16 men's event while Kai Smart topped the U14 division. As for the women, MacKenzie Schwinghammer won the U18 event while representing Alberta, Maia Schwinghammer and Jessica Linton were first and third, respectively in the U16 event and Emma Bosco, Butterworth and Anna Wilkinson dominated the U14 proceedings.

Wrapping up with the big air, Martin, Smart and Lindsay-Ross took the top three U14 men's slots, respectively, while MacPherson won U16 women's silver and Howell, Butterworth and Bosco took the top three in U14.

In the Superyouth event, the women put up an impressive showing. In the U12 division, Chase Capicik won three golds, Lynnette Conn won silver and bronze Emilia Oziewicz won silver, Clare Bosco won silver and Malica Malherbe won two bronze while U10 competitor Jayden Rainnie won two silver.

As for the men, U8 competitor Isaac Oziewicz won a gold, silver and bronze, U10s Dexter McPherson and Jack MacLeod each took home a bronze, while in the U12 division, Caden Ferguson won a gold and a bronze, Daniel Gannon won a gold, Owen Scarth took a silver and Oscar van Dongen took a silver and a bronze.

While Fairbairn was impressed with all the athletes who attended, there was a certain group he said have made significant strides in recent weeks to put up the results they did.

"Some of the younger girls in the moguls have really stepped it up over the last three weeks of training," he said. "We've been spending a lot of time training moguls just because we have the facilities now.

"The younger girls, the 12- and 13-year-olds really shined, and I think a lot of that was due to the fact we had the facilities to work with and it allowed them to progress to a higher level quicker."

In his first season with the club, Fairbairn has jumped right in after moving to the local squad from the provincial team. He previously coached in China, among other locales.

"Everybody's been super supportive. The cooperation of the mountain has been excellent. There's never any hesitation to help us out. Everything has been good," he said. "I'm getting used to the lifestyle. Formerly, I was travelling around quite a bit and now, it's nice to just stay at home every day.

"It was a constant grind of airports and hotels and now it's a lot more relaxing."

Landing at the WBFSC is certainly welcome, he said, as there's plenty of talent he can sculpt into successful performers at the club level and, hopefully, beyond. With a new permanent moguls and airbag facility set to be built on Blackcomb Mountain, local athletes will be well equipped for years to come.

"I strongly believe the club kids are going to become high-performing athletes very quickly here," he said. "Especially on the women's side of things on the moguls, you'll see a big shift of the kids who are moving up to the national team will be from the west as opposed to the majority coming out of the east.

"(That's probably) four years away."

Fairbairn noted that as the athletes making the jump to higher levels get younger, it's important to keep in mind that they still are human and at risk of being overtrained and burned out.

"You've got to walk that fine line," he said.

The club's next action takes place this week right here at home with the WIN Canada Cup slopestyle event finals taking place on Thursday (Jan. 14).


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