HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA
Aerial practices held in Whistler and Grande Prairie pools are helping Team Yukon’s freestyle ski team make a splash at the Canada Winter Games in Nova Scotia this week.
Instead of hitting the water, as they did in the summer, Yukon’s Miguel Rodden, 17, landed in the finals of Wednesday’s aerial event, taking sixth at Ski Wentworth north of Halifax.
“I couldn’t be happier. My goal was to make it to the finals and I did that and better, so I’m really stoked,” said Rodden. “I learned (the trick) in Silver Star, when we went for the selection camp in January.
“It’s been super fun so far and a good experience.”
Putting him in the finals and then in sixth – the only Yukoner to make a final in freestyle so far in Halifax – was a corked 900 with a grab, basically an “off axis” spin jump with two-and-a-half rotations, landing backwards.
No simple manoeuvre, the eventual gold medalist of the event, BC’s Max Heard, won the competition doing the same trick.
To put the accomplishment into better perspective, at the 2007 Games in Whitehorse, not a single Yukoner skier was able to crack into the top-20 of any freestyle event. More impressive, had Rodden, who won two silver medals at the Arctic Winter Games last March, landed his corked 900 as smoothly as he had in the qualifying round, he could have a medal dangling around his neck.
“He was super close to the podium,” said Yukon freestyle head coach Stuart Robinson. “If he landed his second jump he could have been close, if not on the podium.
“We had a great day in the air. The level of competition was really high and the Yukon team really stepped up, from the training right through to the end. We got into the finals there and the rest of the team did really well. They all had personal bests.”
Though not reaching the finals, Yukon’s Sebastien Berthiaume managed to snatch 20th in the aerials despite a recent injury.
“His air today was really good – his trick was 720s all day with grabs,” said Robinson. “He’s also just coming back from injury – he had a broken collarbone just before the Games. He was able to compete and really bring his level up, from the injury, for this event.”
The top-20 results don’t end there.
To start the Games on Sunday, Yukon’s Anatole Tuzlak barely missed the final of the half pipe, finishing 11th in the qualification round.
“Anatole, in the half pipe, was amazing,” said Robinson. “He was 11th, but there was a three-way tie for third, so it kind of puts him up to ninth. In the official scoring they have to place third, fourth, fifth, but it was actually a three-way medal tie.”
Also on the half-pipe, Rodden took 16th in qualifying and teammate James Boyle finished a spot ahead in 15th.
“The really interesting thing, when watching James ski, is he spins to the right,” said Robinson. “Most of the other skiers in the competition spin to the left.”
After finishing 17th in the half pipe qualifying, Yukon’s Anna Smith missed the aerial event after aggravating a pre-existing anterior cruciate ligament injury during practice.
“She had a small ACL tear when we came into the competition, she was wearing a brace, and she was skiing really well,” said Robinson. “We had some great training days and she did quite well in the half pipe, especially considering we don’t have a half pipe to train on (in the Yukon). They haven’t really skied in half pipe much.
“There’s been a couple guys who really had to step up for this competition and they really have. I’ve been really impressed with their performances and so have a lot of the coaches and staff here, officials – there’s been lots of comments about how well the Yukon is doing.”
Individual moguls and duel moguls were both rescheduled, now taking place Thursday and Friday. The delay was caused by bedbugs, which were found at the Tim Hortons Camp in Tatamagouche on Sunday, forcing an emergency evacuation of the athletes’ residence.
With the exception of Alberta’s freestyle team, the entire field had to undergo a late night, last-minute move.
“It was a bit of a hassle,” said Robinson. “Out of the group (of competitors at the residence) we took it really well. The guys were great about it. It was some harder conditions from a training perspective because they were shifted around, their sleep was disturbed and the travel times were changing all the time.
“Now we’re staying in this great Holiday Inn and the guys are loving it – great food and everything.”
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