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Heil finishes season on the podium

Tanner, Blais lead Canadian effort at Apex World Cup finals

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The Canadian Freestyle Ski Team earned four medals at Apex Mountain Resort last weekend in the 2006 Freestyle FIS World Cup finals.

The event included the usual moguls and aerials contests, as well as a World Cup halfpipe event that kicked off the finals on Friday.

Ontario’s Sarah Burke, who lived in Whistler for a while and now lives in Squamish, took the gold medal in the event. Although Burke competes mostly in pro events, she supports the idea of a World Cup circuit and the eventual inclusion of ski halfpipe in the Olympics.

"For me it was pretty important to be here, and getting it started for more World Cups for our event," she said. "People are just starting to hear about us and just starting to get into it."

Burke probably has the biggest bag of tricks of any woman competing in halfpipe, but skied conservatively because of a shoulder injury.

"I was doing what I could do, doing 5s (540 spins) and 7s."

Second went to Jennifer Hudak of the U.S., while Ingrid Berntsen of Norway was third.

Whistler fitness instructor and freeskier Cat Smiley also took part, finishing fifth.

In the men’s halfpipe Kalle Leinoinen of Finland took the gold, followed by Anders Murud of Norway and Matthew Hayward of Red Deer, Alberta.

In the moguls on Saturday, Olympic and World Cup overall champion Dale Begg-Smith of Canada took the gold medal while competing for Australia. Warren Tanner of Grimsby, Ontario, earned the first World Cup medal of his career by finishing second, while Guilbaut Colas of France took the bronze.

"It was going to go one way or the other," said Tanner. "I was going to crash big or ski well.

"It tells me I’m legitimate. When you don’t have a medal it’s hard, even if you know you’re capable of it."

Marc-Andre Moreau and Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau also cracked the top-10, finishing fourth and seventh respectively.

In the women’s moguls Jennifer Heil of Spruce Grove, Alberta finished a close second to Nikola Sudova of Czech Republic, while Hannah Kearney of the U.S. was third.

Heil also earned the World Cup globe for the third year running for finishing on top of the moguls standings.

"To be surrounded by friends and family is more special than receiving the crystal globe," said Heil. "This will be the most special of the three because it’s here in Canada."

The aerials took place on Sunday, with a close race for the overall men’s title. Kyle Nissen of Calgary had the lead in the standings, but an eighth place finish at Apex let Dmitri Dashinski of Belarus sneak in and take the glass globe that goes with the aerials title.

Ryan Blais of Grande Prairie, Alberta finished second to Dashinski, which eased his disappointment in not making the 2006 Olympic team.

"That was the biggest heartbreak in the world, because if I had qualified I knew I could have gone there with medal potential," he said.

"I think the only thing that’s going to quell the disappointment of no Olympics this year is 2010, and I’m super hungry for 2010."

In the women’s contest Alla Tsuper of Belarus won the final gold, followed by Shuang Cheng of China and Emily Cook of the U.S.

For Canada, Amber Peterson and Veronika Bauer of Ontario were sixth and seventh respectively.

The last event of the season for the national team is the senior national championships, also at Apex, this weekend. Events include moguls, dual moguls, halfpipe and aerials.

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