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Snowboarders challenged at Saas Fee



Members of Canada's top halfpipe squad stayed on the sidelines for the World Cup at Saas Fee, Switzerland this week to give some of the country's up and coming athletes a chance to earn FIS points and more chances to qualify for the World Cup circuit and the 2010 Winter Games. As well, the pipe was undersized by Olympic standards and the Canadian Snowboard Federation isn't taking those results into account when deciding the team for the Games.

Other countries haven't taken the same approach, and as a result Canada's up and coming riders faced a solid international field.

On the men's side Canada was represented by Quebec phenom Charles Reid, Whistler's Ryan Rausch and Calgary's Dustin Craven.

None of the men qualified in the top-12 for the men's final, with the win going to Kazuhiro Kokubo of Japan who is chasing the overall World Cup title. Mathieu Crepel of France was second, followed by Finnish rider Peetu Piiroinen.

Reid was the top Canadian, in 20 th place, earning FIS points with a top-30 placing. Craven was 37 th and Rausch 48 th .

The women's competition went to Torah Bright of Australia, followed by Xuetong Cai of China and Sophie Rodriguez of France. Three Japanese riders also qualified in the top-12.

The biggest surprise for Canada was the 16 th place result of Palmer Taylor of Ontario. She was on pace to qualify for the finals, but small mistakes cost her a shot a medal.

"Palmer Taylor had a very nice run and made a big mistake as she dragged her hand across the flat bottom from one trick to another," said halfpipe head coach Tom Hutchinson. "She finished 16 th , her best finish in a World Cup. Taylor has a very bright future. I am very impressed with her and she is also very happy."

This was Taylor's third World Cup start.

Squamish's Dominique Vallée also competed, placing 24 th after a fall in her qualification run.


First Nations snowboarder to carry the torch

Sometimes-Whistler-resident Chelsie Mitchell is one of 20 First Nations snowboarders selected to carry the Olympic torch on Feb. 6 through the town of Lillooet. Mitchell has been with the First Nations Snowboard Team since 2005, although she hasn't competed in a FIS-sanctioned event since 2006 when she took a break from the team to start a family.

Mitchell is a member of the Wet'suwet'en Nation and currently lives in Moricetown near Smithers.

Despite her break from competing, Mitchell is taking a run at qualifying for the national team by the end of 2010. She is predicting big things for the First Nations Snowboard Team in the future.

"As most athletes go through obstacles, at the beginning of the 2006-07 winter season, after months of discipline training, I learned I was expecting my son, who I had in August 2007," she said. "I continued to snowboard and coach snowboarding with the First Nations Snowboard Team until I was six and a half months pregnant.

"After having my son and my body recovered, I automatically went back into training mode to condition my body for the up and coming winter season. In the winter of 2007-08 I coached the Junior Elite First Nations Snowboard Team and entered a couple of local competitions. This year, I am back with the Elite First Nations Snowboard Team in FIS halfpipe and slopestyle at (B.C. Snowboard Association) competitions. I am anticipating to compete at the halfpipe nationals at Stoneham Quebec in March 2010.

"After having my son I can honestly say I'm in the best shape of my life, physically and mentally. I find I am more focused and determined."

Carrying the torch was an opportunity to represent the First Nations Snowboard Team, where Mitchell will continue to coach while training for her own goals.