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Whistler athletes on top at freestyle nationals

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Bradley and Bellavance golden, Kerfoot silver and bronze at Apex

It was a golden finish for Canadian freestylers Tami Bradley and Scott Bellavance. Both skiers wrapped up their World Cup seasons and their careers on Sunday the way every athlete hopes to go out – on top.

At the Canadian Freestyle Ski Championships in Penticton last weekend, both captured gold medals in the dual moguls event. Bradley, who lives in Vancouver and Whistler, edged out Sylvia Kerfoot of Whistler in the final dual of the day to win the gold.

"That was really great," said Kerfoot. "As much as I wanted to win, it was awesome to see Tami. She’s a great friend, and she has worked so hard over the years. I know how much she deserved this."

Kerfoot was happy with her silver medal, her second of the Canadian championships. She won a bronze in the single moguls event two days earlier.

Bradley’s toughest challenge of the day came in the semi-finals, when she faced Kristi Richards of Penticton. Richards, 21, had won the single moguls gold and has been solid in her first World Cup season.

"I was on a mission," said Bradley, 32. "Kristi was the girl to beat."

Richards went on to claim the bronze medal in her small final dual against Pascale Lamarre-Biebuyck of Laval, Quebec.

Bradley has been with the national team for nine seasons, and has enjoyed some of the best results of her career in recent years. She has won seven World Cup medals, and a bronze in the World Championships competing at home in Whistler in 2001. She also represented Canada twice in the Olympics.

For Bellavance, 27, who hails from Prince George, the gold dual moguls medal wraps up his five years with the national team. Bellavance has also been skiing well as of late, winning two World Cup medals this season and placing sixth in the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

Like Bradley, Bellavance faced some strong competition in the last rounds. He went head-to-head with Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau of Drummondville, Quebec in the semi-finals, and prevailed after Rousseau made an error in the lower section of the course.

"P.A. (Rousseau) is probably the biggest gun I’ve beaten in duals," said Bellavance. "I felt pretty good about beating the number two skier in the world.

Bellavance went on to face Warren Tanner of Grimsby, Ontario in the finals. Although the 22-year-old World Cup rookie has been off this season after finishing the 2001-2002 season ranked seventh in the dual moguls, Tanner turned it on for the nationals this year, winning gold in the single moguls. Although he was gunning for the dual moguls medal, he was happy with the silver.

"I couldn’t be happier for Scott," he said. "Dualing with him was special. It’s nice to see him go out as national champion."

In the small final, Chris Wong of Prince George edged out Rousseau to take the bronze.

The aerials competition on March 29 may have marked another gold medal performance by a retiring athlete.

Veronica Brenner of Sharon, Ontario, a silver medallist in the 2002 Olympics, has admitted that she is contemplating retirement. The 28-year-old did not win a World Cup medal all season, but was fourth in the world championship finals.

"I won, so that was nice because I haven’t won for a while," said Brenner. "I really didn’t jump well, it was kind of a mediocre day – maybe even worse than mediocre – but it was tough with the challenging winds. I’m just happy to make it through the season with a win at the end."

The silver medal went to Melissa Prefontaine of Grande Prairie, Alberta, and Amber Peterson of Thunder Bay, a member of the national development team, took the bronze.

In the men’s competition, Steve Omischl of North Bay, Ontario, took the gold medal. The result capped a season that included four World Cup medals and a bronze at the world championships.

Nicolas Fontaine of Magog, Quebec, took the silver medal. The national team stalwart, a four-time national champion and a four time world champion, had previously announced that this would be his last year of competition. Jeff Bean of Ottawa, who was ranked third on the World Cup circuit last season, took the bronze medal.

In the moguls competition on March 27, a mix-up in the calculations originally put the gold medal on the shoulder’s of Whistler’s Sylvia Kerfoot, but she was relegated to third once thing were straightened out.

The gold went to Penticton’s own Kristi Richards, and the silver to 17-year-old Elisa Kurylowicz of Manotick, Ontario. Still, Kerfoot was happy with the result.

"My first run felt like the best run I’ve had all year, and the second run was good as well.

"It’s a big competition for us, and it’s always really challenging – especially with all the young girls coming up and gunning to be the best."

Kerfoot has run into injury trouble recently, and went in for shoulder surgery before the start of this season. The 25-year-old has been rehabilitating the injury ever since.

"It just feels good to ski well again, and my air marks were surprisingly good. (Kristi) Richards busted out at least a few new tricks, so her air marks were the highest, but I was more comfortable in the air than I had been all year."

Warren Tanner of Grimsby, Ontario took the men’s moguls title with a personal best score.

"It was by far the easiest course of the year, with big jumps. So I knew it was going to take my best run," said the 22-year-old.

Silver went to Jean-Francois Therrien of Laval, Quebec, a member of the national development team. The bronze went to Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau of Drummondville, Quebec.