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Young skiers and vets battle it out for national titles



B.C. skiers on top in freestyle national championships

The depth of Canadian freestyle ski programs became apparent as the season progressed with 11 different athletes contributing to a record national medal tally of 29 in moguls, dual moguls and aerials over the course of the season.

Two skiers, 20-year-old Jennifer Heil of Spruce Grove, Alberta and 24-year-old Steve Omischl of North Bay, Ontario earned their fair share of those medals, winning the overall World Cup titles for women’s moguls and men’s aerials respectively.

If the results from the Bell Canada Freestyle Ski Nationals at Mont Gabriel, Quebec are any indication then the team is about to get stronger as younger athletes at the provincial and development team level challenged the national team vets in every contest.

In the women’s moguls, 22-year-old Jennifer Simm of Prince George won her first national title with 24.52 points. Pascale Lamarre-Biebuyck of Montreal was second and Jacquie Brown of Chatham, Ontario was third – both are members of the national development team.

"I don’t think I could have done better," said Simm, who made the finals six times this season in World Cup competition. "It’ll be great to head into next season with the title of national champion under my belt. Today’s result is a continuation of my progress which will hopefully culminate with a big performance at the Olympics."

Whistler’s Sylvia Kerfoot was 17 th this year after winning the bronze last season. Jennifer Heil sat out the nationals with strep throat, and injuries kept Stephanie St-Pierre of Drummondville, Quebec on the sidelines.

In the men’s moguls, Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau of Drummondville, Quebec continued his comeback this season by winning his fifth national moguls title. National team skier Warren Tanner of Grimsby, Ontario and development team skier Garrett Simm of Prince George, Jennifer’s younger brother, were second and third.

"I had a good ending to the World Cup season and I wanted to keep that success going here," said Rousseau, 24. "I got my motivation today by watching a lot of the young guys and seeing how enthusiastic they were. I just told myself I’ve got to put on a good show."

Rousseau score a 26.65, Tanner a close 26.51 and Simm a 25.49.

Toronto’s Veronika Bauer claimed her third national women’s aerials title with a score of 173.12, ending an otherwise disappointing season on a high note after landing a perfect triple-twisting double somersault.

"It was up and down, but mostly down," said Bauer of her season. She was third in the world in 2002-03, but struggled to even qualify for the finals this season.