Whitehorse’s Josh Harlow can land a 1080 – three full rotations in the air – just fine.
But that’s not the trick he decided to go with in the Canadian Junior Freestyle Ski Championships last week at the Apex Mountain Resort outside of Penticton, B.C.
“I’ve been doing that trick for the past two, two-and-a-half years, something like that,” said Harlow. “In training I was doing corked 1080s, but I found out in the comp they were rewarding people landing switch (facing backwards). So I didn’t do the corked 1080 in the comp, I stuck with the corked 900.”
Harlow landed a corked 900 with blunt tailgrab to win bronze in the big air competition in M2 (ages 16-18) on Saturday. The trick is basically two and a half off-axis spins, with a grab, landing backwards.
The bronze is the first medal won by the Yukon Freestyle Ski Association’s competitive team at the national level.
“I went into it pretty relaxed because I didn’t think I had a good shot at the podium,” said the 17-year-old. “I didn’t have the pressure. After the first cycle of everyone’s runs, they announced the top-three and I was in the lead. I was pretty stoked to hear that.”
Harlow also placed seventh in the slopestyle competition in M2 on Thursday.
Yukon teammate Etienne Geoffroy-Gagnon cracked the top-10 at the national championship as well.
Geoffroy-Gagnon jumped and rode the rails to seventh in the slopestyle for M3 (ages 14-15).
“I’m pretty stoked that I got the top-10 this year at nationals,” said the 15-year-old. “There was some pretty hard competition.”
For the seventh place result, Geoffroy-Gagnon hit a front 270 off the top rail, and off the jumps he completed backward 540 with Japan grab, straight 720 with a Liu Kang grab, and a flat 900 with tail grab.
“The flat 900 with the tail grab, I learned that like two days before the comp,” said Geoffroy-Gagnon. “I was really relieved (to land it) because in my first run I kind of messed up, in the second run I did it perfectly.”
Geoffroy-Gagnon also flew to 11th in the big air event with a flat 900 featuring a critical grab.
Other Yukon team results include Dylan Reed placing 16th in slopestyle and 17th in big air for M2, Aidan Allen 12th in slopestyle and 20th in big air for M3, and Kyran Allen 16th in slopestyle and 25th in the big air in M3.
“Again, I can’t believe how good these guys are,” said Yukon coach Steven Harlow. “I can’t wait to see how they do in the next competition. Every time we go out, these guys get a little bit better. Everything these guys were doing … was 100 per cent better.”
The strong results in the big air competition can be partly attributed to a big purchase by the Yukon Freestyle Ski Association earlier in the winter, said both Yukon coaches.
The association bought a giant airbag that allows its skiers to practice their big air tricks with minimal physical risk. Similar to airbags used by Hollywood stuntmen, the airbag, which is 15 by 15 metres wide and 3.5 metres tall when fully inflated, cushions the landings of skiers after they launch off ramps.
The ski association purchased the airbag for $42,000 with about $17,000 from Lotteries Yukon and over $25,000 from the Yukon government’s Community Development Fund.
“I’m super proud of the whole team and Josh leading the way with a third place. It’s awesome,” said Yukon head coach Stu Robinson. “It just really shows the program is working.
“The air bag and all the training the guys are doing is paying off.”
“Without the air bag this year, we could not have done it,” said Steven.
“We could not have had this team without the president, my mom (Lynda Harlow),” he added. “She has done an incredible amount of work. Getting the airbag is the only reason we have the team we have right now. Everyone has to give her 100 per cent credit.
“The amount of work she has done to get us what we have is phenomenal … It’s all volunteer work.”
Josh placed third to win his team its first medal at a Canadian Shield Ski and Snowboard Tour event the previous weekend in North Vancouver. (Last year former Yukon skier Miguel Rodden won a silver at a Canadian Shield event, but not as a member of the Yukon team.)
The Yukon team is currently in Vernon for the B.C. Freestyle Ski Championships this weekend.
Yukon’s Sebastien Berthiaume placed fifth in the big air competition at last year’s Canadian junior championships for the association’s previous best finish at the national level.
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