Long wins Boys K2 Slalom race as Canada puts three in Top 10

WHISTLER, BC (April 7th, 2007) – Richard Long (Collingwood, ON) won the Boys K2 Slalom race to claim his second victory in as many days at the Sierra Wireless Whistler Cup, a three-day international competition for some of the world’s best ski racers between the ages of 11 to 14. Long highlighted an excellent day for Canada on the slopes as a total of six Canadians were in the Top 10 in today’s four races, including three in the SL race won by Long.

Long, who claimed the victory in a two-run time of one minute 24.48 seconds, said having just a small lead after the first run did not make him overly nervous.

“I tried not to think about it. I tried to think of it as just a normal training run,” said Long, who also easily won yesterday’s Super G race.  I wasn’t really worried about winning as much as knowing that I put down a good run. I’m not necessarily trying to win, I’m just trying to push harder and see if I can go faster. And it’s been working so far,” added Long, who was also the overall winner at the MARS K2 Canadian Championships last month.

“It’s definitely a good feeling to have a result like this. I mean, a win here doesn’t determine the rest of your career or anything but it’s a building block and it helps to build confidence,” he added.

Americans Kieffer Christianson and Taylor Shiffren rounded out the podium in the Boys K2 Slalom race behind Long, finishing second and third respectively.

The race was very successful for Canada, as Dylan Ross (Canmore, AB) finished sixth and Dylan Fisher-McCarney was tenth.

In today’s action at the Whistler Cup, Boys and Girls Slalom races were held for the K2’s — the 13 and 14-year-old’s — while the K1’s — the 11 and 12-year-old’s — raced in Boys and Girls Giant Slalom races.

Austria swept the podium in the K2 Girls race with Valentina Fankhauser winning followed by Andrea Pomberger in second and Mirjam Puchner in third. Camille Gilbert (Val St-Come, QC) was the top Canadian in eighth.

In the K1 GS, Slovenia’s Nina Znidar followed up yesterday’s Kombi victory with another win. Nina was first in Kombi and third in Giant Slalom at Topolino in 2007.  “I’m very excited to win in GS – it’s what I wanted when I came here. It was a great course – very fast. I look forward to the Slalom because that is my favourite event.”

She was followed by Poland’s Daniel Maryna Gasienica and American Mardene Haskell. The top Canadian was Kailee Darlington (Whistler, BC) in sixth.

“My run was pretty fast, but I felt like I was sliding a lot. The top was really strong for me, but I struggled at the bottom,” said Darlington. “My goal at Whistler Cup is to be on the podium in Slalom, which is my best event, and Top 10 in the other events. I was 4th yesterday in the Kombi and I’m 6th today, so I am achieving the goals I set for myself. I’m excited to do the slalom tomorrow!”

Mikael Svensk of Finland won today’s Boys K1 GS race.  At 11 years of age, Mikael has the focus and confidence of a much older athlete. The fact that he weighs in at just under 84 lbs is by no means a limitation on the success he is driven to achieve in the sport of ski racing. Simply put, Svensk aspires to “become the best skier in the world.”

With a remarkable command of the English language, Svensk told us “I was hoping to win today. This is my first time at the Whistler Cup and its great here. The course today was a little too short and easy for me. I am competing for Finland, but I do a lot of training and racing in Italy because there are very good skiers there.

Svensk won Gold in GS at the 2006 Pinocchio sugli Sci, a prestigious international children’s alpine ski competition in Abetone, Italy. In 2007, he earned a bronze medal in GS at the famed Trofio Topolino event also in Italy. 

Svensk was followed by Italian Andrea Provera who finished 2nd.  Andrea spoke almost no English, but we found some common ground in a little French.

“I didn’t finish yesterday in the Kombi, which was bad because this year in Topolino I came first in the Kombi. Today I was trying to win”. When asked if he was satisfied with today’s results, the reply was a resounding “YES, YES, YES”!

Provera trains in Italy with Mikael Svensk, today’s winner. “This course is very technical, which is easy for me because I enjoy technical skiing.  It’s a great day for Mikael – we are good friends”, he announced as the two boys shared a “high-five” in a show of camaraderie and mutual congratulations.  Conner Honey (Edmonton, AB) was the top Canadian in 15th.

The 15th edition of the Sierra Wireless Whistler Cup, with over 20 countries represented, is one of only two major international ski races for athletes between the ages of 11 to 14 in the world. Some of the countries attending this year’s competition include Canada, the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, USA, Australia, Slovakia, Chile, Netherlands, Denmark, and Japan as well as new participants Greece and Finland.

Sierra Wireless is now in its seventh year as title sponsor of the Whistler Cup, which is organized by the Whistler Mountain Ski Club and hosted by Whistler-Blackcomb. 

Gordon Bagan,  Windermere Valley Ski Club President speaks for many parents when he says that "from a parent’s point of view, what’s most important about this event – more than the great competition – is that it’s so much fun for the kids! They train hard all year and they really look forward to coming to Whistler in the Spring. This is like a reward for the racers and their families.”

“Does it get any better than this? Sunshine, a hard track, happy kids and live-timing so that families all over the world can follow along. I can’t say enough about the incredible volunteers who are on the hill and behind the scenes making sure these races are safe, fair and fun for everyone,” said Whistler Mountain Ski Club Program Director Nigel Cooper.

Dusan Grasic, Alpine Director for the Canadian Alpine Ski Team added “The Whistler Mountain Ski Club has done an amazing job with the courses this year. With a lot of effort, they have turned soft, spring snow into hard racing tracks. I’m very impressed! And this beautiful weather…it’s perfect.”

The Sierra Wireless Whistler Cup wraps up tomorrow with Giant Slalom races for the K2’s and Slalom for the K1’s.

LIVE TIMING / UNOFFICIAL RESULTS: Live timing of the Whistler Cup as well as unofficial complete results are available via the Alpine Canada Alpin website: http://canski.live-timing.org/

The Whistler Cup, which is hosted by the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, is one of only five international ski events for 11 to 14 year olds (K1 & K2), and is the only one in North America. World Cup champions to have participated in the Sierra Wireless Whistler Cup include Austria’s Benjamin Raich, Slovenian Tina Maze and Anja Paerson of Sweden. Some Canadian alumnus of the event includes Erik Guay, Britt Janyk, Allison Forsyth, Emily Brydon, Manuel Osborne-Paradis, Robbie Dixon and Christina Lustenberger.