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Local freeskiers in hunt for championship


Hugo, Ashton second at Snowbird, lead standings

Guerlain Chicherit of France and Jamie Bruge of North Star, California. both managed to defend their respective titles as the U.S. Freesking National Champions on Feb. 3 at Snowbird, Utah. It’s the first time that both the male and female competitors repeated in the International Freeskiers Association World Tour.

The bigger story however is the performance of Whistler’s Hugo Harrison and Jenn Ashton, both taking silver medals and the lead in the overall tour standings.

In front of a crowd of more than 1,000 spectators, Jenn Ashton skied through one of the more challenging rock bands on the course on her second run, and dropped more than 30 feet off a cliff.

It was the best run of the day, but not enough to move past Burge, who posted two solid runs. Despite her efforts on the second run, Ashton ended up 1.4 points back of first place.

Ingrid Backstrom of Squaw Valley, California finished in third and moved up to second place in the standings behind Ashton with 83 points. Ashton, who won the Canadian Freeskiing Championships in early January, has 94.

The men’s competition also came down to the wire. Kaj Zachrisson of Rattiuk, Sweden had the lead coming into the second day of competition, but a fall pushed him back in the standings. That left the U.S. title open to three men, Chicherit, Harrison and Rick Greener of New Mexico.

The men took a 40 degree slope at over 60 kilometres an hour, and aired sizeable cliffs along the way. Chicherit went slightly bigger than the others and took the win by two points over Harrison and four points ahead of Greener.

Pierre-Yves Leblanc, the winner of the Whistler event, finished in a tie for seventh place with Sverre Lilliquist of Sweden.

Harrison, who also finished second in Whistler, emerged as the overall leader with 88 points. Leblanc is second with 72, and Chicherit, who missed the Canadian stop, is third with 50 points.

The third and final stop on the tour, which has three events this year instead of five, is the European Freeskiing Champions at Les Arcs, France, from March 7 to 10.