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Whistler athletes prepare for Canada Winter Games

National event kicks off in Prince George on Friday



A steady contingent of athletes connected to Whistler will make their way up to the northern part of the province this week.

They'll be heading up to Prince George for the 2015 Canada Winter Games, which will run from Feb. 13 to March 1.

Alpine skier Alexander Valentin, freestyle skiers Sofiane Gagnon and Teal Harle and snowboarder Jacqueline Monette-Warren all call Whistler home, while para Nordic skier Ethan Hess is from Pemberton. As well, alpine skiers Ella Renzoni, Sierra King, Katie Fleckenstein, Kyle Alexander, Asher Jordan and Kasper Woolley all live in communities south of Whistler, but represent the Whistler Mountain Ski Club. Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club member Maia Schwinghammer, meanwhile, will represent Saskatchewan.

Teal Harle will be entering the Games on a high, as he was featured in an "Athletes to Watch" video series on the Canada Games Committee's official YouTube feed at cgc1967. Harle's video went live Feb. 9.

Reached via email in California at the eventually cancelled Mammoth Grand Prix, Harle said he was honoured to be recognized as a standout entering the Games, though the attention adds some pressure.

However, he has familiarity with the course he'll tackle, and noted any changes they made will likely work to his advantage.

"I went to Prince George last year for a B.C. provincial event. It was -30 there and bulletproof snow, which is never nice for anyone. The course last year had some pretty sick rails but the jumps were all pretty small," he noted, adding he expects larger jumps and a higher-level slopestyle course.

Harle's family operates the Podium of Life Snow Sports Academy, of which he is set to be the first graduate. The school operated out of Mount Washington before moving to Whistler for this season. Harle said he's been able to challenge himself more here on the mainland.

"Moving to [W]histler was a great thing for me because the park here is awesome and I can learn a lot of the bigger tricks for competitions," he wrote.

The Grade 12 student has also had the opportunity to train with national team members in Calgary this season.

Alexander uses Parsons Memorial as springboard

Kyle Alexander is also heading into the Games with a confidence boost.

Alexander was the top male skier in the truncated 36th annual Bob Parsons Memorial Races for U16 competitors, taking the super-G silver on Feb. 8 before surging up a spot the following day. The two planned downhill races were cancelled because of poor course conditions (see related story on next page). Top female skier Kristina Natalenko of Grouse Mountain Tyee Ski Club will join Alexander at the Games.

"It feels good. I achieved what I wanted to," said North Vancouver's Alexander. "(I was) maintaining focus throughout the weekend and staying on my game plan... ski the line, inspect well and focus at the top of the course."

He hasn't competed on the national stage quite like this before, citing the Whistler Cup as his top experience to date and feels his strong super-G runs will help lift him in advance of the Games.

Led by Alexander's strong showing, WMSC men swept the podium both days with Kasper Woolley's gold and Asher Jordan's bronze on Sunday and Jordan's silver and Alexander Valentin's bronze on Monday. Ella Renzoni and Katie Fleckenstein medalled for the club on the women's side.