While the world was watching the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, youth athletes from across the province were participating in a multi-sport gathering of their own this past weekend, with several Whistler skiers producing podium finishes.
Chase Ujejski was one of a few local athletes who left the BC Winter Games, hosted by Mission from Feb. 20 to 23, with multiple medals while representing the Vancouver-Squamish zone. The Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club member collected a pair of silvers from moguls and slopestyle competition held at the Hemlock Valley Resort.
Fellow Whistler skier Lucas Pelletier captured a gold medal in the youth boys' slopestyle as well, making it a one-two finish for him and Ujejski in the event held Saturday, Feb. 22.
Snow dumped on the course during Saturday's competition, which made it challenging on skiers.
"The course was good, but on the day of the comp it was really hard to get speed," said Ujejski, adding that he was pleased with his Winter Games performance and experience.
Kevin Leslie nearly earned a medal of his own, as the Whistler skier finished fourth in moguls, and also placed eighth in slopestyle. Also from the local club, Raine Haziza and Eva Dunham recorded top-10 finishes in both youth girls' contests. Carter Krasny, Teagan Bruns and Anders Ujejski had been named to the Vancouver-Squamish freestyle squad but did not compete.
Benita Peiffer was another local athlete to bring home multiple medals, doing so in cross-country skiing. Though Mission hosted the Games, Whistler Olympic Park was used as the venue for Nordic sports, so Peiffer and other Whistler skiers had the advantage of competing at home.
"I like racing at home, I know the course better and it feels good to race at home," said Peiffer, who claimed a silver medal in the midget girls' individual start race, plus a bronze in the sprint.
"The sprint, I felt a little sick and my chest was hurting, but I gave it my all. I think in the classic I felt really good and my technique felt good."
Whistler Nordics skier Lauren Kilfoy-McKay finished in the top 10 for both events.
Michael Murdoch was a frustrating fourth in both midget boys' races, but did capture a silver medal for Vancouver-Squamish on a mixed relay team with fellow Whistler skier Fraser Doak. Doak earned top-10 finishes from both individual races, and Ian Davidson, also of Whistler, placed 12th in those events.
Pemberton's Ethan Hess earned a gold-medal finish in the individual start sit-ski race, while Spud Valley Nordics skier Jonathan Rabung competed at the juvenile level and notched a 10th-place finish in the interval start race.
In biathlon, Squamish's Hunter Sones won gold in the senior boys' individual competition and bronze in the sprint, while Sorsha Henning, also from Squamish, collected silver in the junior girls' sprint.
Twenty-two skiers from the Whistler Mountain Ski Club helped fill out the Vancouver-Squamish team for alpine skiing, but the snowfall at Hemlock and a broken chairlift hampered those races.
The boys were only able to complete the slalom race, but it saw Nathan Romanin finish with a bronze medal.
"I was really happy to get on the podium for the first time ever," said Romanin, who was a year younger than much of the field and was just hoping on a top-10 result heading in.
Whistler skiers Jack Forsyth and Ethan McTavish notched sixth- and seventh-place finishes, respectively, while Jack Cormack and Julian Brumec-Parsons placed in the top 20.
The girls had better luck in their events, as organizers were able to pull off all three events scheduled, and Ella Renzoni reached the podium in all of them.
The Whistler skier skied to gold medals in both the slalom and GS, then added a bronze in the team-of-two ski cross event that ended competition on Sunday, Feb. 23. Meg Swaffield also finished her Games with more than one medal, securing a bronze in the girls' GS and a gold in ski cross. Morgan Border skied to a silver in ski cross as well.
There were many other local skiers in the mix for medals that were just short of the podium, as Erin Dawson, Arabella Ng, Alissa Wong, Sierra King and Maja Woolley each had top-10 results in either GS or slalom over the weekend.
The Fraser Valley team ended the BC Winter Games with the most medals, 103 of them in all, but Vancouver-Squamish's 32 gold medals were the most of any region. The team also ranked second in overall podium finishes at 77.
Visit www.bcgames.org for more details and full results.