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Whistler skier leads Canadians at skicross worlds

Hayer captures silver medal at inaugural FIS world championship for discipline

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By Andrew Mitchell

While the Vancouver Organizing Committee makes up its mind whether to include skicross in the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, it was business as usual for athletes at the Freestyle FIS World Championships in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy.

Whistler’s Brian Bennett and Davey Barr represented Canada on the men’s side, finishing 12 th and 22 nd respectively. Bennett was the sixth fastest racer in qualifying, and made it to the round of 16 before being eliminated.

“I was hoping to get into the semi-finals but I didn’t have a very good start,” said Bennett. “I got in behind the group and couldn’t find a place to pass. But at the previous World Cups this year I didn’t get past qualifying, so this is a better finish for me.”

The win went to Thomas Kraus of the Czech Republic, followed by teammate Stanley Hayer — a former member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team from Kimberley who races for the Czech Republic. Enak Gavaggio of France was third, followed by Roman Hofer.

On the women’s side there was a lot of bad luck to go around. Anik Demers Wild of Quebec lost her skis in travel, and using borrowed equipment, missed a gate at the bottom of her qualifying run. After finishing eighth in the world championships in 2005, it was a disappointing result.

“I was hopeful my skis would arrive today but that didn’t happen,” she said. “I had very good speed on my run but I wasn’t used to the skis. I went too far on the last jump and missed the gate.

“Still, this result hasn’t put me down. I’m more determined than ever to come back next year and do well.”

Whistler’s Ashleigh McIvor, who has top results in the U.S. Open and X Games to her credit, injured her back in training and did not compete.

Ophelie David of France was the top woman, followed by teammate Meryl Boulangeat. Third went to Alexandra Grauvogl of Germany.

In November, the International Olympic Committee approved skicross as an Olympic discipline, which means it will be mandatory in 2014. Because it was added after the Vancouver bid, it’s VANOC’s option to include it in 2010.

VANOC is currently reviewing the cost and logistics of hosting skicross, including housing several hundred additional athletes and officials. They will also take Canada’s medal prospects into consideration.

A final decision was expected in late January, but has been delayed indefinitely.

In the meantime, both the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association and Alpine Canada are laying groundwork for the inclusion of skicross in future Games. The decision to include the sport with freestyle has been questioned, as the sport has more in common with alpine racing and most athletes are former ski racers.

Last week the Canadian Snowsports Association, in co-operation with freestyle and alpine, announced plans to host a five-day invitational camp at Cypress Mountain to assess athletes for possible selection to a national high performance skicross program. To take part in the camp, which runs from April 2 to 6, you have to be a member of a national high performance ski program, a provincial high performance program, or have recent SX experience at FIS, X-Games or similar level.

Interested athletes can contact Dave Pym, managing director of the CSA, at dpym@isrm.com by March 15.

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