Most athletes would consider the World Championships to be the big event of the year. Normally the event is the centre of an athlete's season, and hence the focus and priority for a sport's program. It works a little differently in the world of snowboarding.
Firstly, our World Championships take place in January. This is a strange time as it's right after the Christmas break, and so it's also one the first competitions of the season.
Secondly, the Worlds were three weeks before the Olympic test event at Cypress Mountain. This makes it hard for the coaching staff to design a program where the athletes can peak for both the Worlds in Korea and the World Cup at Cypress.
Thirdly, the World Championships conflicted a bit with the Winter X-Games schedule. This made it impossible for the halfpipe riders to do both events. Most big name riders chose the X-Games, and so the depth of field in Korea was inferior to the field at Cypress.
Despite all of that, both events were huge for different reasons. The Canadian Snowboard Federation made an added bonus for both events. If anyone of us won either event we'd get an automatic spot on next year's Olympic team. The only person who did it was Jasey Jay Anderson, as he was crowned World Champion in the parallel giant slalom in Korea.
The snowboardcross was the first race last weekend at Cypress and the course was picture-perfect on Friday. The weather was sunny and beautiful, and the guys did a great job in qualifying. Nine men made the top 32 cut, and Dominique Vallée and I got into the top 16 women's final. I managed to get another fourth place finish, the fourth one since Christmas. Dom ended up ninth.
Drew Neilson, who's been injured all year, came back to start the second half of the season. He has a nasty wrist injury that's still problematic, and he will have to get another surgery later in the spring to fix it up. Lucky for us though, he raced at Cypress and finished in seventh place. He made great passes all day to get by other racers after having slow starts out of the gate because of his limp wing.
Mike Robertson and Francois Boivin raced into the big final. Both were looking like they'd be on the podium at the end of the race. However, Frank went down right before the last corner and ended up in fourth place. Mike took home a silver medal, just short of winning the race and guaranteeing himself a spot on the Olympic team.
The halfpipe contest at Cypress drew the largest crowd of the weekend. Some of the superstars came to town the check out the venue and get a taste of Cypress snow. Shawn White won the men's event while his American teammate, Kelly Clark, won the girl's contest.
Only 12 people make pipe finals, and the points separating 12th and 13th can be minute. Sarah Conrad was victim to that nasty 13th place in the qualifying that was held the morning of... you guessed it, Friday the 13th. She was on the bubble all the way until the last rider. USA's Ellery Hollingsworth beat Sarah out by 0.3 of a point to take the last spot in Saturday's finals. BAH!
No Canadian girls made the finals, but three guys got in. Justin Lamoureux was fifth. Brad Martin, who did the only 1260 of the contest, was seventh. Jeff Bachelor, who was second in Korea, ended up in eighth. He had an amazing second run but messed up his last hit to keep him off of the podium.
The last event of the weekend was the PGS. The course was to be run on the same slope as part of the SBX. This meant that the groomers had their work cut out for them. As soon as we finished racing the SBX on Friday the groomers had to flatten the course and make it hard and fast for the PGS racers. On Saturday night the organizers deemed the run to be too soft for racing the next day. They cancelled the event and sent the riders packing for Stoneham this week.
I can only imagine how disappointed my PGS teammates were, as they didn't get a chance to race on the Olympic hill. They also didn't get another chance at that golden ticket for next year's Games.
So the Cypress weekend ended on a bit of a sour note. The weekend started out with a fabulous snowboardcross race, then followed with a mediocre pipe to ride in, and finished with a cancelled PGS. All in all I give it a C+ with an added bonus for the great weather.