By Andrew Mitchell
After seeing their season cut well short by the lack of snow in Europe and unstable conditions in Asia, the Canadian Freestyle Team at last returned to North America for a World Cup event, last weekend at Apex Mountain Resort.
Although the history books will put an asterisk beside this freestyle season due to the small number of events that actually took place, it’s been a good year for the Canadian team. With a gold medal in aerials on Sunday, Ontario’s Steve Omischl claimed the overall title for the season.
It was a clutch performance, as just two points separated Omischl from American Jeret Peterson heading into the last event of the aerials World Cup season. Peterson was slightly off in his first jump, leaving the door wide open for Omischl.
“That was by far the hardest competition I’ve gone through in years,” said Omischl, who had yet to win a gold medal on Canadian soil, despite the 12 World Cup victories to his credit. He also won the overall title in 2004 and placed second in 2005. Last season he struggled with injuries to place 16 th .
“This time it was way harder, I was so stressed,” he said.
Making the day even more special was the fact that teammate Kyle Nissen finished second to Omischl, ahead of Peterson. Nissen was wearing the yellow bib as overall leader until the last event of the season last year, when he was bumped out of first place.
“I was rooting for Steve,” he said. “I was in his position last year.”
None of the Canadian women qualified for the finals, with Amber Peterson and Veronika Bauer placing 14 th and 17 th respectively.
The day before, Canadian skiers picked up four medals in moguls, with Jennifer Heil collecting her fourth straight win, Kristi Richards of Summerland picking up her second medal of the season, and Alex Bildeau and Maxime Gingras placing second and third for the men. When you include Dale Begg-Smith’s gold medal, skiing for Australia, it was a Canadian podium sweep.
“My jumps were big, probably the biggest of the year,” said Heil, who enjoyed the course and the crowds that came out to cheer on the Canadian skiers. Heil kept the leader bib, and is favoured to repeat the overall title with just a few events remaining until the world championships.
“Everything was there for us to perform,” said Bilodeau. “I’ve just done the best run I’ve ever done and I’ll make sure I do it again.”
Bilodeau finished just 0.08 points behind Begg-Smith, which is as close as moguls competitions get. Gingras finished 0.34 back of Begg-Smith.
As well as the four medals, Canadians also factored in the top-12. Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau was fifth, Vincent Marquis ninth and Guillaume Turegon 11 th on the men’s side.
On the women’s side, Stephanie St. Pierre was fourth, Whistler’s Sylvia Kerfoot ninth, and Marie-Josie Lessard 12th.
That was Kerfoot’s best result this season, and the fourth time in a row she’s qualified for the finals in a World Cup competition. It also guaranteed her a spot on the Canadian world championship team.