Apex welcomes Olympic champs
Olympic mogul champs are competing in Penticton for the 2014 Canadian National championship March 27-30 at Apex Mountain.
Competing are Alex Bilodeau, who won gold in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, along with silver-medal winner Mikaël Kingsbury, who became Canada’s winningest skier in Canadian mogul history on March 16. Also heading this way are Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe, who captured gold and silver, respectively for Canada as well as the rest of the national team, including Penticton’s Andi Naude.
It’s a free event that the community is encouraged to check out.
“It’s just really exciting. These athletes put their hearts into it,” said Naude, of why people should make the 30-minute drive to Apex Mountain. “They have trained super hard and to see them put it all on the line for the national title, that’s going to be really exciting. It’s the best skiers in the world. I think that will be really cool for a lot of people to see.”
Naude, who is ranked seventh in the world, said Kingsbury, the 2014 FIS world cup mogul champ who broke Jean-Luc Brassard’s record of 20 world cup wins, is an amazing person who is passionate about the sport.
“He always goes out there and does his best,” she said, adding that she’s picked up a few pointers from watching him.
On the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association website, Kingsbury said he couldn’t remember his record-breaking run.
“I kinda black out and just go into skiing mode … so I didn’t really think about breaking the record, until the end,” said Kingsbury, who accomplished the feat in four seasons compared to Brassard’s 11. “It’s a bit crazy because Jean-Luc has been an inspiration to me ever since I was tiny and remember watching him do World Cups. He has given so much to our sport and team, especially as part of the Olympic team in Sochi last month. He is just amazing and I can’t wait to talk with him.”
“Well it’s about time,” admitted Brassard, “and in four years. It’s like Wayne Gretzky breaking records at such a young age. I’m proud to have Mikaël take up the reigns. Our sport needs new faces, new stories and people that will help keep it in the spotlight. I’m super happy for him, the team and the sport I love.”
As for Bilodeau, Naude said he’s had an unbelievable career with two gold medals, including 2010 in Vancouver. Bilodeau also won the final world cup event over Kingsbury on March 21.
Naude is excited to return home and compete on the mountain she grew up on.
“I always love coming home and competing,” she said. “It’s so much more fun having all my family and friends around me.”
After reaching the podium last year, Naude is hoping to do it again. Since the Olympics, Naude’s best result was fifth in Japan. She endured a couple of rough outings in Norway and France, but said it was fun to be back as she loves skiing. This is Naude’s season finale and she’s glad to be at the finish line of a long, busy and stressful year, which included trying to make the Olympic team. She is looking forward to the off-season to work on things and be better next season.
Also competing are members of the Apex Freestyle Club, including Brayden Kuroda, Koleton Phipps, Joe Durham and Max Todd on the men’s side. Madison Parker, Mackenzie Schwinghamer and Kassidy Todd are on the women’s side. AFC coach Kenni Kuroda said it’s going to be really exciting for his kids to be in the event.
“They are all keen, they are all looking forward to being there,” he said. “As far as results go, I will be happy with anything. No high expectations because this is the very best in Canada.”
Kuroda said they will benefit just from being around the Olympic athletes.
“It can help promote their confidence,” said Kuroda. “Just the experience of being in an event this big. I think they are going to be more awed. I don’t think they are going to get overly hyped about it. I’m just telling them to ski the way they always do. They are not out there to beat the gold medallists.
“I would be very shocked,” laughed Kuroda when suggested he’d be shocked. “I think everybody would be. This is the biggest event that any of them have ever been in.”
AFC will also be represented by alumni Connor Spence, Jordan and Joshua Kober, Kyle Parker and Mason Barzilay. The women’s side has 39 competitors, while the men’s has 57. Anna Spence and James Naude are forerunning, meaning they will take a test run for the judges before competition starts ensuring timing is in place.