Yukon freestyle skiers jump into Games

The spread eagle was followed by a dinner for three, a twister spread, a leu-kang grab and a back layout. It sounds a little kinky.

The spread eagle was followed by a dinner for three, a twister spread, a leu-kang grab and a back layout.

It sounds a little kinky.

Add stylin’ pants, big brass belt buckles and trendy jackets, and Tuesday’s Canada Winter Games freestyle-skiing competition looked more like a hip fashion show than a sporting event.

That is, until the athletes were in the air.

Flying off snow-packed tables and ramps, the male and female competitors flipped, twisted, grabbed, spun and spread, sailing some 30 metres in the air before landing on a rough, 34-degree slope.

Spruce boughs littered the steep landing surface, and volunteers shoveled more onto the hill after the jumps.

Whizzing through the air, often upside down and backwards, it’s hard for athletes to tell where sky stops and snow starts.

And spruce boughs help give the hill some definition.

A small crowd at the bottom of the jump cheered and clapped as skiers from across Canada flipped, twisted, spun and landed in sprays of snow.

At one point, the audience even took a stab at the wave while tunes blasted from the hill.

It was the qualification round, and halfway through the male competition the crowd went crazy.

Travis Wilson was about to take his first jump.

The 13-year-old skier was one of three Yukoners competing at this year’s freestyle event.

 “It’s the first time we’ve had Yukon kids in any freestyle disciplines,” yelled the announcer.

“And we’re happy to have them here.”

Wilson flew off the small table and lifted one ski in the air.

It was a well-executed leu-kang grab, and he landed it smoothly.

“It’s nerve-wracking,” said his mom Laura, watching from the bottom of the hill.

“He’s underage and competing against all these 19-year-olds doing inverted aerials, but he’s not psyched out by the older kids.

“He’s got a very mature attitude and sees it as a great learning experience.”

The Yukon team knew it wouldn’t make the finals.

Only in its second year, the local skiers aren’t allowed to do inverts or flips, said coach John Standing.

“The focus is to perform and have a good time,” he said.

When Brayden Kulych’s turn came, he chose to try an iron-cross grab.

Flying off the small table, the Yukon jumper crossed his skis in the air before landing, but didn’t manage to grab them.

“He would have gotten more points if he’d done a simpler trick well,” said Standing.

“But we’re not worried about ranking, and he chose to try a harder one.”

Kulych’s grandfather was a ski jumper in Norway, said his mom Darla, standing at the bottom of the hill.

“Brayden just did a bigger jump than we thought he was going to,” she added.

If the local skiers want to pursue freestyle seriously, they’ll have to move to Calgary or BC — the Yukon’s season is too short.

And Darla is already considering a move.

“We’ve talked about it,” she said.

“Brayden loves it.”

 The final Yukoner to make a jump was 11-year-old Darren White.

“He has no fear,” said his mom Kelly.

“He loves air, he loves jumps and the thrill of hitting jumps.”

Sailing off the table, White did a spread eagle, his legs almost doing the splits before he landed on the slope.

“My heart’s just pounding,” said Kelly.

“He wanted to be here so bad and he worked so hard to make the team.”

Behind her, Darren’s dad held up a tinsel-bedecked sign, “We believe in Darren White.”

Two skiers joined the Yukon team late and didn’t make the Games cut, and another was squeezed out during pre-Games competition.

However, these three front-runners still got a turn on the slope before the freestyle finals.

“The judges use them to check their timers and practice before the finals,” said Standing.

“So they get scored like everybody else.

“It’s great experience.”

Alberta’s Keltie Hansen got the gold in the women’s freestyle. Silver went to Gillian McIver and Kylie Sivell took bronze, giving Ontario two more medals.

In the men’s freestyle, Quebec jumper Olivier Rochon took gold. Matt Margetts from BC earned silver, and bronze went to BC’s Andrew Pool.