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Three days of competition and celebrations mark successful Whistler Cup

Hundreds gather from around the world for 21st youth alpine races



The Whistler Cup event, the largest competition of its kind in North America, is about more than just the competitions.

Many of those on the Alpine World Cup circuit today have competed at the Whistler Cup over the last 20 years.

"The Whistler Cup is extremely instrumental in developing skiers in Canada," said past cup competitor and national ski team member Mike Janyk from Sweden and the JOI Invitational last weekend.

"We are really sheltered from the real world of alpine skiing (in Whistler) — the depth of alpine skiing is really in Europe, so as a young kid getting a chance to be exposed to that — and not just the young kids but for parents to be exposed to that too — is super important."

Janyk, who raced in the 2010 Olympics, well remembers his time in the Whistler Cup.

"Oh man, I was not that good back then," he said laughing. "My first time over to Europe was when I was 18 and because I raced in the Whistler Cup I always knew who these guys were — you get to meet them and I am friends with them still on the World Cup, so it goes so far beyond the competition, and the effects last for many years."

Athletes like Finn Iles, who raced in the U14 category, are already experiencing that. "I really like the festival and... all the international kids that you get to meet.

"On the World Cup you are in competition against people from all different countries and it is the same here, all the international competitors come here and you meet them and see what they are doing and how they get used to the courses. It was lots of fun."

Over 400 of the highest-level competitors aged 12 to 15 from 19 different nations attended the 21st Whistler Cup from April 5 through 7. Athletes came from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Macedonia, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Russia, South Africa and Serbia.

Ken Read, one of the Crazy Canucks alpine ski team and more recently former director of winter sport for Own The Podium, opened the cup ceremonies April 5 by stressing how important the Whistler Cup event is to the development of alpine sport globally.

He told the crowd that while attending a world championship event this past winter in Schladming, Austria, he was introduced to gold-medal winner Marcel Hirscher.

"I said, 'pleased to meet you,' and he said, 'oh, I have met you before at the Whistler Cup,' and that athlete was Marcel Hercher, who went on to not only win another gold medal, but also to win the overall World Cup for the second year in a row."

Read, who is chair of the International Ski Federation's youth and children's committee, which oversees all of the children's races around the world in 18 countries, said events like Whistler Cup help development.

"This is the only one in North America, so it is very important to keep tabs on what is going on, observe how they are being organized, and then share the experiences and make sure this sport is continuing to move forward."

He had some words of advice for the scores of parents in the crowd as well.

"This is a learning experience, this is not the end of the road, this is not the Olympics, this is a benchmark where they get to measure themselves against the rest of the country and others internationally, but the next step in going into FIS — that is the real show."

The impact economically of the Whistler Cup is also being studied by the RMOW. The Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance will look at its economic impact on the resort and produce a report in the coming months.