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Freestyle teams unbeatable once again



The Canadian Freestyle Ski Team is on a roll, driven by a moguls team that seems entirely capable of sweeping the podium on any given week.

At the most recent World Cup in Calgary, the Canadians were solid once again in winning four medals. And this time the team's medal haul got a boost from the aerials team, which lost most of its senior athletes to retirement and injuries.

Both moguls and aerials competitions took place on Saturday.

In moguls, Audrey Robichaud finished on the podium for the second consecutive week, winning the silver medal behind Hannah Kearney of the U.S. Kearney has won all five single moguls events this season, and she's on her way to shattering World Cup records. Ekaterina Stolyarova of a surprisingly strong Russian team earned the bronze.

Also finishing in the top 12 were Chloe Dufour-Lapointe in seventh, Whistler's Chelsea Henitiuk in 11th and Jennifer Heil in 12th.

In the men's mogul competition it was rookie Mikael Kingsbury on top for the second time this season, bringing his total to two gold medals and three silvers.

"It was awesome (conditions) for the little snow and I did exactly what I wanted," said Kingsbury, who now sits on top of the FIS rankings. "I skied fast - not the fastest, but pretty fast with my two jumps, so I'm super happy."

Olympic champion Alexandre Bilodeau placed second, followed by Alexandr Smyshlyaev of Russia.

Once again, Bilodeau used his time in the spotlight to draw attention to Kingsbury and the other rookies on the team.

"Mikael's not an up-and-comer any more, he's here to stay," said Bilodeau. "He's one of the leaders in the world and he's going to stick for at least eight years. It's going to be his first Olympics probably in Sochi... We probably have an Olympic champion in our back pocket and Canada doesn't even know about it yet."

Simon Pouliot Cavanagh was a career-best fifth, Cedric Rochon was 11th, and Whistler's Eddie Hicks 13th.

In women's aerials, Sabrina Guerin was a solid fifth. Shuang Cheng of China placed first, followed by teammate Mengtao Xu, with Olga Volkova of the Ukraine in third.

On the men's side, Calgary's Warren Shouldice - the only veteran remaining on the men's team - shrugged off some earlier disappointments to take the gold medal in front of his friends and family. Renato Ulrich of Switzerland was second and Scotty Bahrke of the U.S. took the bronze.

"I grew up in Calgary, started jumping in Red Deer - I've lived here my entire life," said Shouldice, who goes by the nickname Wookie and wears a t-shirt under his uniform that says "Let the Wookie Win."

"I can't believe that we (Calgary) got a World Cup and I can't believe that I won the thing," Shouldice added.

"I had no idea it would be so special until it happened. I thought it was just another World Cup stop, but now, having won it at home, it's so much more - it's one of the best days of my life and I'm going to remember it forever. So I'm just on cloud nine."

Finishing just off the podium, posting a career-best, was Jean-Christophe Andre in fourth place, with Remi Belanger in sixth and Travis Gerrits in ninth. That gave Canada four athletes in the top 10, which is far better than the team expected this year with so many veterans stepping down.

Next up for the Canadians is the FIS Freestyle World Championships in Park City, Utah. There's a crowded schedule with ski cross (still considered a freestyle discipline by FIS), as well as halfpipe and slopestyle events that are being considered for future Olympic Games.

Canada will be well-represented in these "new" sports, with local Sarah Burke winning the X Games title for halfpipe and Rosalind Groenewoud leading the World Cup tour this year. One the men's side, Justin Dorey, Matt Margetts and Mike Riddle in contention for the first World Championship halfpipe title.

The world championships got underway on Wednesday, Feb. 2. Complete coverage next week.