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Freestyle team racks up World Cup medals

Canadians break-out of early-season funk at Lake Placid event

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The Canadian Freestyle Ski Team landed six medals in three events Jan. 14-16 at Lake Placid, New York.

Prior to the weekend, the team had been struggling to find the results that gave Canada the Nations Cup by such a wide margin last winter. The U.S. men’s team has also come on strong recently, with medal sweeps in moguls and aerials events.

In the first aerials event, Calgary’s Warren Shouldice and Ottawa’s Jeff Bean finished second and third to Russia’s Dmitri Arkhipov, less than four points back. It was Bean’s second contest since he broke two vertebrae in training a few months earlier.

"The neck’s feeling much better after finishing third," joked Bean.

The Canadians, who train every summer at Lake Placid, had their share of fans in the stands cheering them on.

"This is kind of like my home," said Bean. Although he wasn’t happy with his 17 th place ranking in the world last season, he’s positive about his prospects this season. "Now I feel like a 16 year old and I’m really having fun," he said. "This was just a good day for me."

Nina Li of China’s win on Friday broke up Australia’s Lydia Ierodiaconou’s World Cup winning streak, although Ierodiaconou still managed to finish second. Shuang Cheng of China was third. Whistler’s Cindy Thomson is the strength and conditioning coach for the Chinese aerial team.

The top Canadian was Melissa Prefontaine of Grande Prairie, Alberta in sixth place, the best result of her career, while Veronika Bauer of Toronto was ninth.

In the moguls the following day, Jennifer Heil of Spruce Grove, Alberta strengthened her position atop the rankings with her second World Cup win in three contests on Saturday.

"I love speed and today I just wanted to ski a fast and aggressive run," said Heil, the defending World Cup champion in the discipline. "The course got pretty firm and pretty quick, but I like that."

Hannah Kearney of the U.S. was second, followed by Nikola Sudova of the Czech Republic.

Stephanie St-Pierre was sixth for Canada, followed by Elisa Kurylowicz in seventh and Kristi Richards of Summerland in ninth.

The American team continued to dominate in the men’s event, with Travis Mayer of the U.S. edging out Mikko Ronkainen of Finland to take the gold. Marc-Andre Moreau of Chambly, Quebec moved from 13 th in the qualifiers to third place, earning his first medal of the season and the second of his career.

Two other Canadians made the final, with Jean-Francois Therrien of Laval, Quebec finishing eighth and Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau of Drummondville, Quebec ninth.

Although the Canadians managed seven finalists for the day, the strong U.S. team landed 12 of those spots.

The weekend wrapped up with another aerials competition on Sunday.

Once again Bean led the way for the Canadians with a silver medal performance. Steve Omischl of North Bay, Ontario, the defending World Cup champion, broke out of a slump to win the bronze.

"I’d gone four events without a podium, and that’s a long time for me," said Omischl. "I’ve been training really well, but not competing well. So this was a step in the right direction."

Jeret Peterson of Boise, Idaho took the win, maintaining his lead in the points race.

Warren Shouldice missed the podium, but earned some good points in fifth place and now ranks second to Peterson on the overall points list.

In the women’s event, Nina Li of China won her second event in a row, followed by Lydia Ierodiaconou of Australia and Alla Tsuper of Belarus.

Deidra Dionne of Red Deer Alberta was fifth and Melissa Prefontaine of Grande Prairie, Alberta was ninth.

"I’m still coming back from my injury," said Dionne, who had undergone ankle surgery a month earlier. "It was really, really painful today on my body. Landing was difficult."

The purpose of the surgery was to clear out bone fragments and scar tissue, so there was little chance of her re-injuring her left ankle, but it will be sore for a while.

The World Cup continues this weekend with moguls and aerials events in Fernie on Friday and Saturday.

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