The Canadian moguls team got the season off to a winning start at Tignes, France last week, with athletes winning three of six medals up for grabs. And that was without the help of Olympic and World Cup champion Jennifer Heil, who is still on the sidelines with a knee injury.
On the men’s side, Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau won the gold with a solid margin over the rest of the field, while teammate Alexandre Bilodeau picked up the bronze behind Tapio Luusua of Finland.
Rousseau struggled for two seasons with a neck injury before returning to form last year to win the world championship title. Now, with the rules allowing for inverted and spin tricks, he is at the top of his game.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Rousseau. “I’ve been trying to win the Tignes World Cup for 11 years.
“In the past I’ve been better at the end of the season than at the beginning, so this is a big change.”
It was Rousseau’s third World Cup win, and confirmation that his win at the world championships was no fluke. “It was not a dream,” he said. “It’s confirmation of the situation.”
Bilodeau may have ranked higher, but had trouble landing his second jump — an off-axis 1080 spin. He managed to ride it out to the finish, but lost points and time because of the recovery.
It was the same jump that Rousseau landed perfectly to take the win.
“P.A. nailed it and he was the best skier today,” said Bilodeau, who is recognized as one of the top jumpers in the sport. “Today I was skiing well, but not as fast as I was the past two days (in training).
“But I’m really happy with that podium to start the season, and we’ll build from there.”
Vincent Marquis also made the finals, but finished his day in 11 th place. Maxime Gingras and Warren Tanner were 15 th and 21 st respectively.
Dale Begg-Smith, a Whistler skier that joined the Australian freestyle program in order to have more flexibility to manage his Internet business, finished fifth. Begg-Smith is the reigning Olympic and world champion.
On the women’s side, Summerland’s Kristi Richards started her season with a third place finish behind Margarita Marbler of Austria and Aiko Uemura of Japan.
“I have a history of not competing well in the first contest of the year,” Richards said. “I’m definitely very excited about breaking that cycle, I usually crashed.”
Two other Canadians made the final, with Stephanie St. Pierre and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe of Quebec placing sixth and 10 th respectively. Whistler’s Sylvia Kerfoot was 15 th , Audrey Robichaud 16 th , Nathalie Bazin 19 th and Jackie Brown 22 nd .
Before heading to France, the team spent several weeks in Whistler training on the snow and in the gym to prepare for the season.