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Freestyle team provides stiff competition

Nations Cup champions go head to head for national titles

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A lot of sports will have to step up to make Canada's goal of placing first among nations in the 2010 Olympics a reality, but of all sports freestyle has the best head start.

Canadian skiers swept podiums twice in men's moguls and once in women's ski cross, and won medals in every single freestyle discipline this year. The team also captured two overall World Cup titles, and two world championship gold medals - including Whistler's Ashleigh McIvor in ski cross - en route to a fourth consecutive victory in the overall Nations Cup standings.

Last week the team celebrated the end of the season at the 2010 Games venue at Cypress Mountain, against their strongest competition - each other.

In ski cross, Kelowna's Kelsey Serwa followed up on her World Cup silver medal with a Canadian championships title, with Whistler's Julia Murray second, and Ashleigh McIvor third. Andra Nedelcu of Romania placed fourth.

On the men's side, Dave Duncan of Golden edged out Whistler's Dave Barr and Nick Zoricic at the finish line to take the win, with Brian Bennett in fourth place.

In single moguls, Jennifer Heil of Alberta and Alexandre Bilodeau claimed national titles. Heil finished second on the World Cup tour this year, making her comeback after taking last season off to heal from a knee injury. Bilodeau won the men's overall title with five consecutive World Cup wins to his credit.

Heil edged out Pemberton's Kristi Richards for the gold medal. Chloe Dufour-Lapointe was third. Maxime Dufour-Lapointe, Chloe's sister, was fourth.

"It was one of my goals, and it was 100 per cent where I wanted to be," said Heil, 25. "What's exciting is I can improve on it with more speed and aggression."

Bilodeau performed his usual World Cup routine, despite the slower snow, and edged out West Vancouver's Warren Tanner for his second national title. Maxime Gingras was third.

"He's the best guy in the world right now," said Tanner. "Alex won five World Cups in a row this year and to be close behind him feels really good. It's good to be in the mix."

There are a maximum of four spots on the men's moguls teams for the Olympics, and a win at the nationals helps Tanner's cause.

It was a one-run final at Cypress, as snow and fog prompted organizers to cancel one of the runs.

In the aerials competition, Amber Peterson of Thunder Bay won the women's title for the fourth consecutive year, with Genevieve Tougas in second place and Sabrina Guerin third. On the men's side, World Cup champion Steve Omischl stayed on the sidelines to rehabilitate a hip injury, leaving the door open for teammate Ryan Blais to take gold. Remi Belanger, a member of the development team, took the silver medal, with Jean-Christophe Andre edging out Kyle Nissen for the bronze.

The final event was the dual moguls.

Jennifer Heil picked up her second national title of the week, beating Chloe Dufour-Lapointe in the final dual of the day, while Maxime Dufour-Lapointed edged out Kristi Richards for the bronze.

On the men's side, Vincent Marquis upset Bilodeau in the finals, with Maxime Gingras edging Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club athlete Eddie Hicks for the bronze.

"He (Bilodeau) beat me twice this year (in dual moguls) so this was a little bit of revenge for me," said Marquis. "I think we gave them a good show and had some fun."

Snowboard team celebrating best season

The Canadian Snowboard Federation wrapped up the 2008-09 season with a record 26 podiums, including 23 World Cup medals and three medals at the world championship. They did it with injuries - snowboardcross World Cup champion Drew Neilsen was injured most of the year - and with halfpipe athletes missing events because of a lack of funding.

Whistler's Maƫlle Ricker had an off season in snowboardcross, at least compared to the previous year, but still netted four medals. Jasey-Jay Anderson, after years of frustration, also won four medals in alpine racing. Dominique Maltais was recovering from an injury, but still stepped on the podium twice. Matthew Morison, who was racing with a broken hand the second half of the season, just missed two podiums.

Until this season, no Canadian woman has ever stepped onto a World Cup podium in alpine racing, and this year three different athletes earned medals - Alexa Loo, Caroline Calve and Kimiko Zakreski.

The men's halfpipe team also had a solid season with five different athletes winning medals, including Crispin Lipscomb, Justin Lamoureux, Jeff Batchelor, Brad Martin and Dustin Craven.

"We are extremely proud of every rider on the Canadian Snowboard Team for their outstanding results throughout the season," said Christian Hrab, director of high performance at the Canadian Snowboard Federation. "As we enter the last stretch in preparation for the Olympic Winter Games we are committed to provide to all our athletes the resources that they need to win both on the World Cup and at the Games."

The Canadian Snowboard Nationals take place this week at Mont Tremblant.

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