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Gagnon takes career-best eighth

Sports briefs: Peiffer third in FWT debut; Thompson hits podium in Sweden

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Whistler moguls skier Sofiane Gagnon hit the top 10 for the first time ever in her young FIS World Cup career on Jan. 18.

The 19-year-old took an eighth-place finish in Lake Placid, N.Y. with a score of 70.07. Australian Jakara Anthony (78.76) earned the victory ahead of France's Perrine Laffont (74.94) and American Tess Johnson (72.22).

Gagnon was one spot back of being top Canadian, which Chloe Dufour-Lapointe took with a seventh-place finish. Freestyle Whistler alumnus Maia Schwinghammer made the finals but did not complete her first attempt and finished 16th after qualifying in sixth, while Justine Dufour-Lapointe took 19th.

On the men's side, it was the end of an era in moguls as Canadian Mikaël Kingsbury failed to podium for the first time in more than two years when he took a sixth-place finish at Lake Placid on Jan. 13, 2017. This time, Kingsbury took fifth with a 72.93 score while France's Benjamin Cavet was victorious with an 84.83. Sweden's Walter Wallberg (81.47) and Australia's Matt Graham (80.94) hit the podium as well. Philippe Marquis also hit the top 10, placing eighth, while Pemberton's Brenden Kelly was 22nd. Former Whistlerite Daichi Hara, representing Japan, took 11th.

Peiffer hits podium in FWT debut

Whistler Freeride Club alumnus Tom Peiffer made an impression in his first-ever Freeride World Tour ski competition at Hakuba, Japan on Jan. 19.

Peiffer scored 79.67 to land in third place in his debut, only behind winner Markus Eder of Italy (86.67) and runner-up Tanner Hall of the U.S. (81.00). Whistler's Kye Petersen, competing as a wildcard entry, took 12th while Peiffer's twin brother Liam was 14th.

Smart medals at Waterville NorAm

Whistler slopestyler Luke Smart earned a podium appearance in North American Cup action in New Hampshire on Jan. 17.

On a trip with Freestyle Whistler's A Team, Smart finished third behind only Americans Deven Fagan and Tim Ryan. Other locals in action were: Chase Ujejski (16th); Kai Smart (25th); Anders Ujejski (31st); and Nick Suchy (39th).

The next day, with more challenging weather, Chase Ujejski led the team with a fifth-place finish, followed by Suchy in 15th, Anders Ujejski in 17th, Luke Smart in 18th and Kai Smart in 37th.

Former club member Skye Clarke excelled on the women's side, taking seventh on Day 1 before winning the event on Day 2.

Meanwhile, Freestyle Whistler alumni and current BC Team members excelled in Canada Cup moguls competition at Val St-Come, Que. In single moguls women's action on Jan. 19, Maya Mikkelsen took second, while Jessica Linton and Cassidy Butterworth were fourth and sixth, respectively. As for the men, Sam Cordell led the local contingent in fourth while Josh Maga was 28th and Jackson Parsons took 40th.

In dual moguls, Mikkelsen again took second while Linton popped onto the podium in third. Cordell, meanwhile, also took second for the men.

Seven WMSC athletes qualify for Canada Winter Games

A full half of the British Columbia alpine contingent for February's Canada Winter Games will hail from the Whistler Mountain Ski Club (WMSC).

Sara Stiel, Fiona McInnes and Jaden Dawson cracked the girls' team while Chase Burns, David Wood, Matthias Shorter and Adam Usher were named to the boys' team. As well, WMSC's Drew Hetherington will coach alongside Fernie's Montana Molyneux.

The athletes were named to the team on the heels of excellent results at the U16 Teck Open at Sun Peaks from Jan. 10 to 13.

Burns had a win in the Jan. 13 slalom after taking second in the Jan. 12 slalom while Wood earned second on Jan. 13. Shorter, meanwhile, was third in the Jan. 11 giant slalom and Usher took a best result of fourth in the Jan. 10 giant slalom.

As for the women, Stiel had two podiums, finishing second in the Jan. 10 giant slalom and third in the Jan. 12 slalom, while McInnes earned a second-place finish in the Jan. 11 giant slalom. Dawson boasted back-to-back fourth-place finishes as her best, finishing just off the podium in both the Jan. 11 giant slalom and Jan. 12 slalom.

Other local racers excelling at the festival included: John Nicolls (second in the Jan. 10 men's giant slalom); Emeline Bennett (ninth in the Jan. 10 women's giant slalom, seventh in the Jan. 11 giant slalom and ninth in the Jan. 13 slalom); Graham Seltzer (sixth in the Jan. 10 giant slalom and ninth in the Jan. 11 giant slalom); Sam Fuller (seventh in the Jan. 10 giant slalom and sixth in the Jan. 11 giant slalom); Hayden Harley (10th in the Jan. 10 giant slalom); Meagan Doiron (10th in the Jan. 12 slalom); and Duncan Ross (fifth in the Jan. 13 slalom).

Meanwhile, local athletes also dominated at home in Teck U14 Coast Zone action on Jan. 12 and 13.

Jack Thomas, Milan Novak and Alec Waldrum swept the men's giant slalom podium on Jan. 12, while Evan Dennison (seventh), Keiran McRae (eighth) and Andrew Forsgren (10th) also hit the top 10. In the women's event, Sarah-Elizabeth Whelan hit the podium in second while Alexa Brownlie, Jacqueline Smith, Viveka Deck Stang and Vanessa Young were lined up fourth through seventh in order. Sophia Cross, meanwhile, placed ninth.

WMSC members took first and third in both slalom races the next day. In the ladies' event, Erin Husken and Smith took gold and bronze, respectively, while Isabelle Bexton, Tatum Nash, Whelan and Deck Stang were five through eight, in order.

As for the men, Felix Shorter topped the field while Thomas was third. Waldrum (fourth), Forrest Savoy (sixth) and Jasper Shea (10th) ended up in the top 10.

Thompson hits podium in Sweden

Marielle Thompson continued her comeback season with another podium appearance in Idre Fjall, Sweden on Jan. 19.

The 26-year-old ski-cross racer took a second-place result to Germany's Heidi Zacher while edging Switzerland's Fanny Smith in a photo finish.

The day ended up being a long one, as strong winds postponed women's qualifiers to race day, though the weather at that time was only marginally more cooperative.

"The conditions were pretty challenging with a lot of wind and aggressive, slow snow, so we had to make some adjustments," said Thompson. "But I skied really well in every heat and managed to be patient in the final where I was fourth going into the final straightaway."

Fellow Canadians Brittany Phelan and Kelsey Serwa battled it out in the small final, placing fifth and seventh, respectively. Meanwhile, India Sherret, Abby McEwen and Thompson's fellow Whistler Mountain Ski Club alumnus Mikayla Martin took 11th, 13th and 20th, in order.

On the men's side, Chris Del Bosco was the highest finisher in 20th, while Brady Leman and Kevin Drury ended up in 22nd and 28th, in order. The podium consisted of winner Alex Fiva of Switzerland ahead of France's Bastien Midol in second and Austria's Daniel Traxler in third.

Thompson again made the big final on Jan. 20, but went home without a medal after a fourth-place finish. It was a strong day for Canada in general, though, as Phelan and Serwa finished second and third, respectively, behind only winner Fanny Smith of Switzerland. Their teammates each rose a spot from the previous day, as Sherret took 10th, McEwen 12th and Martin 19th.

Thompson has made the big final in all five of her events this season and holds a narrow lead in the chase for her fourth FIS Crystal Globe.

In the men's event, Drury was the top Canadian in 16th, while Del Bosco was 20th for a second consecutive day. Leman also snuck into the top 30 in 29th. France's Jean Frederic Chapuis earned the win over Traxler and Switzerland's Romain Detraz.

Grenier takes career-best fourth

Canadian alpine racer Valerie Grenier was 0.3 seconds off of her first-ever Audi FIS World Cup podium in the super-G event at Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy on Jan. 20.

Still, the 22-year-old can celebrate a career-best fourth-place result as she finished behind only winner Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States, runner-up Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein and third-place finisher Tamara Tippler of Austria.

Teammate Marie-Michele Gagnon ended the day in 21st.

Neither Grenier nor Gagnon finished the Jan. 19 downhill, in which Austrians Ramona Siebenhofer and Nicole Schmidhofer took the top two spots ahead of third-place Ilka Stuhec of Slovakia.

In the Jan. 18 downhill, Grenier and Gagnon were 34th and 40th, respectively. Siebenhofer also won ahead of Stuhec and Austria's Stephanie Venier, in order.

Canadian men, meanwhile, were in action in Wengen, Switzerland.

Ben Thomsen posted Canada's only finish in three events, earning a 13th-place finish in the Jan. 19 downhill, 1.39 seconds back of Austria's Vincent Kriechmayr. Switzerland's Beat Feuz and Norway's Aleksander Aamodt Kilde were second and third, respectively.

In the Jan. 18 alpine combined, meanwhile, Austrian Marco Schwartz topped two Frenchmen, Victor Muffat-Jeandet and Alexis Pinturault, respectively, while in the Jan. 20 slalom, France's Clement Noel edged out Austrians Manuel Feller and Marcel Hirscher, in order.

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