Mateusz Kielpinski/FIS - IJF/Tamara Kulumbegashvili - Miha Matavz/FIS
Mateusz Kielpinski/FIS - IJF/Tamara Kulumbegashvili - Miha Matavz/FIS

Weekend Roundup: Gold for Thénault, Grondin, Deguchi on big podium weekend for Team Canada

It was a busy weekend for Team Canada athletes and fans, with lots of action-packed competition and podium finishes. Marion Thénault, Eliot Grondin, and Christa Deguchi led the charge with their gold medals in women’s aerials, men’s snowboard cross and women’s judo.

There were also podium performances by the “King of Moguls” Mikaël Kingsbury, ski jumper Alexandria Loutitt, big air skier Édouard Therriault, speed skaters Valérie Maltais and Ted-Jan Bloemen, judoka Jessica Klimkait, and the women’s 3×3 basketball team.

Here are some of the top stories from this weekend:

Aerials: Thénault soars to gold with near-century score in Ruka

Marion Thénault scored nearly 100 points and won the gold medal in women’s aerials at the FIS Freestyle World Cup opener in Ruka, Finland on Sunday. It was the third career World Cup victory for the aerialist from Sherbrooke, Quebec.

READ MORE: Marion Thénault captures gold at Freestyle Skiing World Cup in Finland

Thénault’s well-executed full double full (triple twisting double somersault) earned her first place with a score of 99.05 points. That put her more than 10 points clear of Australian Danielle Scott, last year’s overall World Cup champion, who took second place with 88.47 points. Kazakhstan’s Zhanbota Aldabergenova rounded out the podium with a score of 77.43 points.

In her first World Cup start outside of Canada, Charlie Fontaine — younger sister of Olympic medallist Miha Fontaine — finished 11th.

On the men’s side, Lewis Irving took sixth place after advancing to the super final but falling on his last landing. Teammate Alexandre Duchaine ranked eighth.

Snowboard Cross: Golden Grondin victorious at season opener in Les Deux Alpes

Eliot Grondin got his hands on a gold medal at the first FIS Snowboard Cross World Cup event of the season in Les Deux Alpes, France.

In the big final, Grondin just beat out Austria Alessandro Haemmerle at the finish line for the gold medal. Spain’s Lucas Eguibar took the bronze. Grondin, who had been the fastest in qualifying, advanced to the big final after winning his heats in all of the preceding rounds.

READ MORE: Eliot Grondin wins gold at first World Cup of season in Les Deux Alpes

It is the fourth career World Cup victory and 10th career World Cup podium for Grondin who finished third overall in last season’s World Cup standings.

In the women’s competition, Meryeta O’Dine was the top Canadian as she placed fourth in the small final to finish eighth overall.  

Judo: Double Canadian podium in Tokyo

Canada’s Christa Deguchi and Jessica Klimkait shared the podium on Saturday at the IJF Grand Slam in Tokyo, Japan. Deguchi captured the gold medal in the 57kg category, while Klimkait finished with bronze. The duo are ranked first and second, respectively, in the IJF world rankings for their weight class.

Deguchi took down her semifinal opponent, eighth-ranked Eteri Liparteliani of Georgia, by ippon in just 34 seconds. In the final against Jessica Lima of Brazil, Deguchi dispatched her opponent in short order once again, taking 53 seconds to win by ippon.

Winning in Japan was extra special for Deguchi, who was born in the country. This is her eighth career Grand Slam victory.

Moguls: Kingsbury rocks to another Ruka podium

Mikaël Kingsbury got his 2023-24 FIS Freestyle World Cup season underway with a third-place performance on Saturday in the season’s opening moguls event in Ruka. Finland. 

In the six-man super final, Kingsbury scored 79.08 to take bronze behind Japan’s Ikuma Horishima (82.68) and Sweden’s Walter Wallberg (79.88), the reigning Olympic champion. It is the 116th World Cup podium in 136 starts for the GOAT from Deux-Montagnes, Quebec, who is now 31 years old.

READ MORE: Canada’s Mikaël Kingsbury makes his way onto 116th World Cup podium

This is the 12th time Kingsbury has finished in the top-three on the Finnish slope, which is where he won his very first World Cup medal back in 2010. Julien Viel came up just short of the super final, finishing eighth in the first final round.

Saskatoon’s Maia Schwinghammer was the top Canadian in the women’s moguls, finishing ninth in the first final round. From Ruka, the mogulists move onto Idre Fjäll, Sweden where dual moguls is also on the schedule for this coming weekend.

Ski Jumping: Loutitt starts strong with two medals in Norway

Calgary’s Alexandria Loutitt flew to silver and bronze medals at the season-opening FIS World Cup event in Lillehammer, Norway. 

The 19-year-old led Saturday’s normal hill event after scoring 130.6 for her first jump. But she was bumped down a couple steps on the podium after a less successful second jump gave her a total score of 241.6 points for the bronze behind Japan’s Yuki Ito (244.6) and France’s Josephine Pagnier (242.7).

READ MORE: Alexandria Loutitt takes home two medals from FIS Ski Jumping World Cup in Norway

“I made a silly mistake jumping a bit early on my second jump,” Loutitt said. “This is a hill that I struggle a bit with my timing. You need the feeling of the transition point, and I’m guessing a bit when I jump early. I think today also shows that even when I’m not at my best, I can be right there, and that is a good place to be and is a sign of how far we have come.”

Loutitt upgraded her medal colour on Sunday as she finished with a silver medal in the large hill, scoring a total of 267.5 points. That left her 4.9 points back of gold medallist Pagnier. Over the weekend, Loutitt also received her award as FIS Ski Jumping Rookie of the Year for 2022-23, in which she became world champion.

Speed Skating: Maltais, Bloemen skate to silver medals in Stavanger

Team Canada hit the long track in Stavanger, Norway, over the weekend, with veterans Valérie Maltais and Ted-Jan Bloemen leading the way in the medal hunt before the women’s team sprint rounded out the weekend.

Maltais got the Canadians rolling on Friday, winning silver in the women’s mass start. She was with a group of skaters who broke away from the pack and lapped most of the field. It was her second straight podium in the event, following up the bronze she won in Beijing two weeks earlier. She had placed fourth at the season opener in Obihiro and is now ranked first overall in the World Cup standings for the mass start. She went on to finish fourth in the 5000m on Sunday.

READ MORE: Maltais and Bloemen win silvers in Stavanger

Bloemen, 37, claimed a silver medal of his own in the first men’s 10,000m race of the season on Saturday. His time of 13:12.33 put him 9.62 seconds back of Italian Davide Ghiotto. Another Italian, Michele Malfatti took the bronze medal. He is now third in the overall World Cup standings for the long distances (5000m/10,000m).

On Sunday, Carolina Hiller, Maddison Pearman, and Ivanie Blondin skated to bronze in the women’s team sprint.

Big Air: Therriault captures ski big air silver in Beijing 

Canada’s Édouard Therriault captured the second World Cup medal of his career on Saturday, taking silver at the ski big air event at the venue that hosted the competition for Beijing 2022.

The 20-year-old from Lorraine, Quebec earned 181.75 for his best two tricks. That put him a quarter of a point back of American Alexander Hall, who topped the competition with 182 points. Swiss skier Andri Ragletti finished in the bronze medal position with a score of 179.75. 

For Therriault, the result is a career-best, improving on his previous best third-place finish in slopestyle in Fort Romeu, France in January 2022.

There was also a snowboard big air event in Beijing. The top Canadian was Laurie Blouin who finished fifth, three spots ahead of Jasmine Baird in eighth.

Swimming: McIntosh keeps up winning ways

Summer McIntosh started off the Toyota U.S. Opening Swimming Championships in Greensboro, North Carolina by winning the women’s 400m freestyle in a meet record time of 3:59.42. That erased the mark previously held by American long distance legend Katie Ledecky. Thursday night’s race was the first time since 2012 that Ledecky, who finished second to the 17-year-old Canadian, had been defeated in a 400m freestyle race or longer in a U.S. pool. McIntosh went on to win gold in the 400m individual medley and bronze in the 200m backstroke.

Ilya Kharun won the men’s 200m butterfly in a meet record time of 1:54.66. That followed up his silver medal in the men’s 100m butterfly, in which he shared the podium with fellow Canadian Joshua Liendo who took bronze. American Caeleb Dressel took the gold, just 0.01 ahead of Kharun. All three men were within 0.11 of each other. Liendo had won silver in the men’s 50m freestyle on Thursday.

3×3 Basketball: Canadian women find AmeriCup podium for third straight year

For the third straight AmeriCup, Canada’s women’s 3×3 team found themselves on the podium as they claimed a bronze medal in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sunday.

Paige Crozon lead the way for Canada with a 13-point performance in the bronze medal game, where Canada dominated Chile 21-8. Canada bounced back from falling 21-15 to the eventual gold medallists from the United States in the semifinal.

The Canadian women’s 3×3 team featured Kacie Bosch, Crozon, Saicha Grant-Allen and Jamie Scott while the men’s side that finished seventh was comprised of Bikramjit Gill, Alex Johnson, Dele Ogundokun and Chad Posthumus.

Alpine Skiing: Hometown hero Grenier finishes sixth in Tremblant

Valérie Grenier placed sixth in the second giant slalom race of the weekend in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, following up her eighth-place finish on Saturday at the first FIS Alpine Ski World Cup to be hosted in her hometown in 40 years.

On Sunday, Grenier’s two-run time of 2:12.68 left her 0.34 of a second out of a podium position. She has placed in the top eight at all four giant slalom races to start this World Cup season, which has her ranked sixth in the overall standings for the discipline. Italian Federica Brignone won both of the weekend’s races. On Saturday, Britt Richardson posted her first top-20 result as she placed a career-best 15th.

The hometown crowd was louder for Grenier than anyone else, as the 27-year-old who grew up skiing on Tremblant attacked the course in hopes of a podium performance on home snow.

“It’s been an amazing experience to race here at Tremblant. I am speechless at the energy of the crowd and can’t thank them enough for the incredible support. I came into this weekend thinking that I had to be on the podium for the fans, and I learned that the fans are here having a great time and that they are supportive of us whether we are on the podium or not.“

It was not as fun a weekend for the men’s speed skiers who had all three of their races cancelled in Beaver Creek, Colorado because of poor weather conditions.

Rugby: Canada finishes fourth at SVNS Series in Dubai

Canada’s women’s sevens team opened the new SVNS season with a fourth-place performance at the Dubai 7s. Canada’s men’s sevens team finished 12th.

The Canadian women secured a late 14-12 win over Ireland in the quarterfinals to advance to the semis for the first time since Sydney 2020. A try in the 13th minute of the semifinal gave New Zealand a 21-19 victory as they came from behind to send Canada to the bronze medal match.

That was a re-match against France, who Canada had faced in their first pool play match and lost 29-0. In the second meeting, France led 19-0 at halftime. Olivia Apps got Canada on the board, but France took an eventual 26-5 win and the bronze medal.

The teams head to South Africa for the Cape Town stop of the SVNS this coming weekend.