Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by John Tonin

GOING OFF THE RAILS – Yukon freestyle skier Zeb Blower rides a rail during his first qualification run of the Canada Cup Slopestyle competition at Mount Sima on Saturday.

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Photo by John Tonin

INTO A GRIND – Quebec skier Charles-Antoine Brousseau jumps onto the rail during the Canada Cup Slopestyle qualifications.

Freestyle skiers compete in Canada Cup

Skiers from across the country have been at Mount Sima since November getting in some preseason training.

By John Tonin on December 2, 2019

Skiers from across the country have been at Mount Sima since November getting in some preseason training.

Beginning last Thursday, and ending Sunday, freestyle skiers competed in the Canada Cup.

The event at Mount Sima featured both a Big Air and Slopestyle competition. The Whitehorse Canada Cup was stop number one for the Canada Cup Series and is sanctioned as an AFP (Association of Freeskiing Professionals) Silver Event.

Last year, the Yukon was represented by one skier, Neil Mikkelsen. In 2019, the number of territory representatives jumped to five. Competing was Tristan Muir, Zeb Blower, Seth Sheardown-Waugh, Alex Arsenault and Mikkelsen again.

Arsenault, 14, said this was one of the first large competitions he has competed in.

“I just wanted to get more experience with a bigger style of competition,” said Arsenault. “I didn’t have a goal to podium for anything.

“I went to a couple last year, but this one is definitely way better skiers.”

Competing against athletes as old as 21, Arsenault said it was a bit nerve-wracking, but he left feeling confident about his skiing future.

“It’s definitely harder, more intimidating when you are watching kids do tricks that are way better than yours,” said Arsenault. “Now seeing these tricks a lot in person makes me feel like I can be there one day.”

After his slopestyle qualification run, Arsenault said it didn’t go his way, but it is still the event he prefers more.

He came in 48th in Slopestyle out of 67 athletes. He placed slightly better in the Big Air coming in 47th out of 55 athletes.

“Big Air was OK,” said Arsenault. “I did a pretty good 360 over the jump.”

Sheardown-Waugh, 14, competed only in Slopestyle.

“I didn’t do Big Air, I just wasn’t used to the jump, haven’t hit it yet, it’s bigger than last year,” said Sheardown-Waugh. “I wasn’t really feeling it.”

It was Sheardown-Waugh’s first large event that he was participating in.

“This is my first actual competition,” said Sheardown-Waugh. “My other ones were little spring competitions here so this is my actual first competition.”

For Sheardown-Waugh, he enjoyed watching some of the more experienced skiers.

“It’s definitely cool to watch,” said Sheardown-Waugh. “Eventually I can get to that point.”

When Sheardown-Waugh spoke to the Star he was about to do his qualification runs for Slopestyle.

“I’m feeling good,” he said before heading up the lift. “I had good practices, good wipeouts. I just want to do as best as I can.”

During the qualification runs and finals in each event, athletes would do two runs with their best performance counting toward their final placing. Sheardown-Waugh came in 52nd in Slopestyle.

Blower, 15, placed 38th in Slopestyle and 51st in Big Air. He said Big Air, which was held Thursday and Friday did not go as planned.

“It didn’t go very well,” said Blower. “I crashed both my runs.”

Although only 15, Blower has some large competitions on his resume as he skied in the Junior Nationals last year and came into the Canada Cup with some expectations of himself.

“My goals were really to stomp all my runs that I had set,” said Blower.

In Slopestyle, Blower said he had a better showing.

“It went really well,” said Blower who landed both his runs. “First run, didn’t do much just did some 360s with some grabs. Then in the second run, I just hit the rails, 360, and then I did a Misty 5-7.”

During a Misty, the skier does a front flip with a horizontal rotation of 180 degrees.

Blower explained that in the qualification runs he was just trying to do clean runs and save some of the more technical and challenging tricks for the finals, if he were to make them.

Blower said he enjoyed the atmosphere at the mountain with all the skiers from across Canada around.

“It’s really cool just being able to meet other people in the sport because it’s not a very big one,” said Blower. “It’s cool to see other people that are progressing so much.”

Having competed against some of the older athletes, Blower believes in the upcoming years that he will closer to the top of the standings.

Mikkelson, 17, was the lone Yukon athlete at last year’s Canada Cup and he explained what his aim for the weekend was.

“My goal for today was just to have fun and try my best,” said Mikkelson. “Hopefully I can come back next year and qualify for the finals.”

With the year of experience under his belt from the previous Canada Cup Mikkelson said he came into the competition this year feeling more confident.

“I feel like I’m catching up with them slowly,” said Mikkelson. “Compared to last year I can pull off a lot more than I could. I’m a lot more comfortable with these jumps and these rails.

“It’s really energizing to see how talented these kids are. It pushes me to learn new stuff.”

Mikkelson was the highest-scoring Yukoner in both the Big Air and the Slopestyle events and scored 49 points in each discipline. In Slopestyle, he came in 35th and Big Air he placed 49th.

“Big Air, I was kind of scared of the jump but, I did my trick and I landed it good so I was happy with that,” said Mikkelson. “I didn’t quite get the slope run I wanted but I am satisfied with it.”

Muir, 17, competed only in Slopestyle and placed 41st out of the 67 athletes.

The overall winners of each event:

Mathieu Dufresne, from Quebec, ran away with the Slopestyle title scoring 88.5 points. Runner up was Chase Ujeski, from B.C., whose best run was 82.8 points. Cole Isfan, also hailing from B.C. came third with 81.4 points.

Rylee Hackler, from Alberta, secured the women’s Slopestyle championship scoring 86.2 points. Fellow Albertan, Skye Clarke came second with 82 points even. Bella Bacon, from Ontario, rounded out the podium scoring a 73.4.

Émile Boutet, from Quebec, was the only athlete to get into the 90s in the Big Air finals. Boutet’s best run scored at 91.2. Kai Smart, from B.C., got 87.2 points for second and Jaden Sandgathe from Alberta came third with an 83.8 score.

Hackler topped the podium for Big Air with 84.8. Elyssa Willmott from Ontario came second with 72.8. It should be noted, of the four athletes competing in Big Air, only two were able to start the finals. The others went down to injury.

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