A talented group of Canadian moguls skiers fires up the 2009-10 season Friday in Finland. The first World Cup of the season will reveal some of the world’s major players, the ones who will be among the top contenders for Olympic medals on Cypress Mountain in February.
Rising to the top of Canada’s skilled freestyle moguls team are two names in particular.
Jennifer Heil is reigning Olympic champion, winning gold on the very first day of competition nearly four years ago in Torino. The Spruce Grove, Alberta native is very nearly a double Olympic medallist – at Salt Lake City in 2002, she wound up fourth, just off the podium. Heil rises to major competitions, winning four medals spread across the past three World Championships. Two gold, two silver. Since Torino, Heil has won 15 World Cup medals, all of them gold or silver.
Alexandre Bilodeau (Montreal) is reigning world champion in dual moguls. That means he has a grand chance to improve considerably on his 11th-place finish in Torino. He has won 19 World Cup medals since 2006 – including an amazing five gold medals in the winter of 2009.
These two skiers lead the charge, but they are joined by a strong and confident team feeding off last season’s many successes. Moguls coach Rob Kober said: “We have our team right where we want them right now.”
Twice last season, Canadians swept the World Cup podium in moguls skiing – a first for Canada. The responsible parties were Bilodeau, Vincent Marquis (Quebec City) and Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau (Drummondville, Que.). Based on these results, men’s moguls skiing presents a chance for Team Canada to sweep the Olympic podium for the first time in history next February.
Rousseau is 2007 world moguls champion and has spread 21 World Cup medals over the past decade. Marquis won moguls bronze at the 2009 World Championships and was fourth in dual moguls. In the past two seasons, he has six World Cup medals. His younger brother, Philippe Marquis (Montreal), is an up-and-coming skier on the team.
The team rounds out with Maxime Gingras, Renaud Jacques-Dagenais and Warren Tanner. Tanner (Vancouver) is a veteran who won World Cup gold in Lake Placid, USA in 2008. Jacques-Dagenais (Montreal) returns for his second full season after missing last year with a torn ACL. Gingras (St-Hippolyte, Que.) proved a medal threat last season, winning World Cup bronze and finishing fifth in moguls at the World Championships. He hadn’t made the World Cup team the previous year.
The women’s team, minus Heil, got warmed up last weekend at a Europa Cup event, and collected five medals. Along with Heil, the team features two 2006 Olympic skiers, Kristi Richards and Audrey Robichaud. Richards (Summerland, B.C.) is 2007 world moguls champion, finished 7th in Torino, and has won six World Cup medals since the 2006 Games. She aims to rebound from a sub-par 2008-09 season. Robichaud (Quebec City) was 8th in Torino and was 2005-06 FIS Rookie of the Year.
The team rounds out with Jackie Brown (Cambridge, Ont.), a young skier still in search of her first World Cup medal, and Chloé Dufour-Lapointe, who captured her first-career World Cup medal (bronze) last season. The alternate is Chloé’s sister, Maxime.
Freestyle moguls has been an Olympic sport since 1992. Racing at high speed, skiers bounce through a course of moguls and launch off two jumps on the way done. Judges watch. Final scores reflect quality of turns (50%), the two jumps (25%) and speed (25%). Olympic moguls competition runs Feb. 13 for women and Feb. 14 for men.