Tahoe-area J3 ski racers perform well at Whistler Cup
WHISTLER, B.C. and#8212; Tahoe’s elite J3 ski racers represented their nation well among the world’s best at the 19th annual Whistler Cup from April 8-10.
Far West athletes James and#8220;Scottyand#8221; Lebel of the Sugar Bowl Ski Team and Marie Johnson, Garrett Driller and Cody Wilson of the Squaw Valley Ski Team qualified to compete along with 14 other J3 athletes, ages 13-14, from the United States. Competition was stiff among the 25 participating nations, which included 110 boys and 95 girls.
and#8220;This event is one of the pinnacles in junior racing, and is often a stepping stone for great ski racers,and#8221; said Luke Patterson, head J3 coach with the Sugar Bowl Ski Team, who joined Squaw Valley head ski coach Lee Schmidt on the U.S. coaching staff in Whistler.
and#8220;Many of the big names have raced that event, and just going is a big achievement,and#8221; Patterson continued. and#8220;It is also a place where these young athletes are exposed to the depth and international culture of ski racing and#8212; a place where they can meet young athletes with common passions and goals that come from entirely different situations and cultures.and#8221;
Tahoe’s contingent held its own.
On the first day of racing, Lebel landed on the podium with a third-place finish in the super G, while Wilson placed seventh in the race and Driller was 15th. Johnson finished 18th in the women’s super G. Dean Travers of the Cayman Islands won the men’s race and Danielle Brownell-Patty of the Burke Mountain Academy won the women’s race.
The men raced slalom and the women giant slalom the following day. Wilson posted the fastest time of all competitors in his first run before disqualifying on his second run. Driller finished 11th and Lebel 14th, while Johnson placed 30th in her GS race. Canadian Lambert Quezel won the men’s slalom and Marie-Therese Sporer of Austria won the women’s GS.
The men took to the GS course the final day as the women raced slalom. Lebel again recorded a solid result for Team USA, finishing ninth, as well as Driller, who finished 18th. Wilson and Johnson did not finish their respective races. Ryan Mooney of Green Mountain Valley School won the men’s GS and Roni Remme of Canada won the women’s slalom.
Not only did the young athletes from the Tahoe Basin perform well, but they did it from less-than-ideal positions. Lebel skied to his bronze medal in the super G and his quality GS and slalom finishes all with bib numbers of 49 or higher. Driller, meanwhile, posted his results wearing bib 36, and Wilson won the first run of the slalom from bib 55.
and#8220;This was a great example of overcoming adversity and stepping up in a big event,and#8221; Patterson said.
In addition to their individual results, the Tahoe skiers also helped lead Team USA to the win in the K2 (J3) Nation’s Cup, also known as the Team Children’s II title, Schmidt said. Despite not having representation in the K1 or J4 division, the American team finished second in the Whistler Cup’s Nation’s Cup standings behind host Canada.
and#8220;The athletes really bonded together as a team, which helped them do extremely well against the Europeans and the Canadians,and#8221; Schmidt said. and#8220;I was very proud of all the Far West athletes and#8212; how they handled themselves, their attitudes, their competitiveness and their performances. Winning the Team Children’s II title was very exciting for the athletes, who were very joyous on stage excepting their award.and#8221;
The Whistler Cup is one of eight youth international races, and the only one held on North American snow. The Tahoe athletes qualified for the event at the Western Region J3 Junior Championships, which was held at Squaw Valley from March 17-19.
and#8212; Information for this article was used from the U.S. Ski Team.
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