Canada has emerged as a leading nation in the sport of snowboard slopestyle with athletes like Sebastien Toutant, Mark McMorris, Charles Reid, Matts Kulisek, Antoine Truchon, Spencer O'Brien and others competing at the highest level and doing well.
But there are a lot of good up-and-coming riders moving up the ranks as well, including Darcy Sharpe — a Vancouver Island rider who has been training with the Whistler Valley Snowboard Club the past few years. He placed sixth at a World Cup in Quebec this year, followed up with a second place at nationals and earned a spot to represent Canada at the FIS Snowboard Junior World Championships in Sierra Nevada, Spain last weekend.
Sharpe proved he was up to the challenge and earned the silver medal behind Marco Grigis of Italy while finishing ahead of Brandon Davis of the U.S. There were 72 riders in the competition.
Michael Roy was eighth for Canada and David Kinskofer 19th.
Although Canadians posted some solid results at the championships, Sharpe's silver medal was the team's highlight for the week.
Whistler Valley Snowboard Club coach Joe McAdoo said the group is proud of what Sharpe, who turned 17 in February, has accomplished this year.
"The big thing that we're really pleased with this year compared to last is his consistency level at contests this year, it's been amazing," said McAdoo. "To make it through to the finals he had to land one or two good runs, then move onto the semis and another two runs — and sometimes he even had to do this three times — just to get into the finals, where he had to do well under pressure.
"He has been stepping up. At nationals he fell in the first qualifying run to get into the semifinals... and he was still able to put down a highly difficult run — under pressure with only one chance to put it down, and a lot riding on his back."
McAdoo said they were working with Sharpe to add new tricks to his bag. Right now he has backside and switch backside 900s, cab 900s and a few 1080s. He brought out a fronstide double corked 1080 to win the Afterdark Invitational at Mt. Washington, and tested the same trick again at nationals this year.
"We're looking forward to doing a training camp at Mt. Washington with an airbag and jumps, and get a few more doubles comp ready," said McAdoo.
Having Sharpe with the program has helped inspire some of the other riders to progress, McAdoo said. "A lot of the things that a lot of high-end riders do, they can actually see Darcy doing them," he said. "As a coach I can say, 'hey guys, I wan't you to watch videos an hour every night,' and they can see Darcy spends two hours a night studying. They can see what it takes to get to the next level. And learning big tricks first on the trampoline, then bring them onto the air bag and then onto the snow — he's working really hard and he's definitely getting results."
Sharpe's next contest is The Shred Show, a now five-star TTR World Tour event, taking place during the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival, April 13 to 17.
In men's halfpipe, Canada's Harrison Gray placed fifth out of 58 athletes, and was the only member of the team to crack the top 30.
In women's snowboardcross, Zoe Bergermann missed the final but won the consolation to place fifth, with teammate Jade Critchlow one spot back in sixth.