By Andrew Mitchell
In the 2006 Whistler Cup, Canadians skiers picked up a record three medals, including the first gold medal ever won by the home team. The achievement showed how strong Canada’s grass roots programs have become in recent years, while also showing that our juvenile skiers can compete turn for turn with the top European nations.
This past weekend, at the 15 th anniversary of the Whistler Cup, the Canadian team built on the previous year’s success by medaling in several events, piling on the top-15 finishes, and winning the overall Nations Cup for the first time ever. The results were team-wide, with both K1 skiers (age 11 to 12) and K2 skiers (age 13 to 14) finding the podium.
The biggest star of the weekend was Collingwood, Ont. K2 skier Richard Long, the reigning national champion for two years and the top K2 in 2006. Long collected two gold medals and a silver medal and was the top skier at this year’s Whistler Cup. Other multiple-medal winners among the K2s included American Kieffer Christianson, Czech Barbora Pyrochtova and Austrian Mirjam Puchner.
For the K1s, Slovenian Nina Znider swept the women’s races,
while American Mardene Haskell and Pole Daniel Maryna Gasienica shared the
silver and bronze medals. Michele Gualazzi of Italy nabbed two gold medals for
the K1 boys, while teammate Andrea Provera had a pair of silver medals.
Day One — K1 Kombined, K2 Super G
The Canadian skiers lost no time in establishing themselves as the team to beat this year, with Richard Long taking the gold medal in the K2 super G, leading a podium sweep that included Toronto’s Andrew Solomon in second place, and Kamloops’s Tyler Mackenzie third. Julian Sheiner of Quebec just missed the podium in fourth place.
For Long, who specializes more in the technical events, the result was somewhat unexpected.
“My goal today was to win, although I’m usually a little stronger in slalom and GS,” he said.
“I had fun, it’s always fun. The best in the world are here, so the level of competition is high. It’s always good to get a benchmark and see where you are compared to the rest of the kids your age in the world.
“I had a good run, but it was a little sketchy at the bottom. The track is really fast in places and pretty turny in others. You really needed to do a good inspection because you had to know where the blind gates were. If you didn’t see it coming, you could be in trouble.”