Hundreds packed Whistler's Village Square as the Whistler Cup officially got under way, Friday.
Over 400 of the highest-level competitors aged 12 to 15 from 19 different nations paraded through the village before stopping in the square to celebrate the 21st Whistler Cup, presented by Rio Tinto Alcan, which has launched the ski careers of many famous World Cup stars. Athletes compete for three days in super-G, slalom and giant slalom ski racing.
Ken Read, one of the Crazy Canucks alpine ski team and more recently former director of winter sport for Own The Podium, opened the ceremonies by stressing how important the Whistler Cup event is to the development of alpine sport globally.
By way of explaining this 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 subsequently 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."
Canada enjoyed a stellar start to the three-day competition Friday, sweeping the U16 men's super-G podium and winning silver and bronze in ladies' U16 super-G.
Jack Crawford, from Toronto, Ont., battled damp, foggy race conditions en route to gold in the men's category, while Riley Seger of North Vancouver, B.C, took silver, and Vancouver's Sam Mulligan earned bronze.
"It's great. This is what I've been working towards most of the year," said Crawford, 15, who posted a time of one minute, 1.52 seconds. "The run started off slow out of the start gate, and I felt like it was going very poorly, but coming onto the pitch it got a lot faster and from there it felt good all the way down."
Winning on his club's home hill was especially sweet for Crawford, who skis with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club.
"It's exciting. It feels good," he said. "I've had a lot of training on the hill, so I really knew what was coming at me."
Seger, also of Whistler Mountain Ski Club, finished just six-hundredths of a second behind Crawford to take silver (1:01.58) after posting the fastest second-interval time of the day.