Pre-Olympic Sport Flashes: Drama Abounds

More Ski Cross Domination
A snowstorm that dumped 18 inches of snow on L’Alpe d’Huez, France didn’t suffocate the spirit of Canada’s ski cross racers, who wanted to race the second day of the World Cup on Jan. 13. After all, they were on a roll after collecting one gold and two silver medals at Les Contamines, France over the weekend.

But, officials decided to end the World Cup without competing on Wednesday, in order to prevent possible injuries in the white weather. In so doing, Canadians won two gold medals: Chris Del Bosco and Kelsey Serwa took the men’s and ladies titles. World champion Ashleigh McIvor added a bronze medal, ahead of Julia Murray who finished fourth.

This is proving to be a very strong team, capable of multiple medals at the Olympic Winter Games next month. You can watch these high-flying Canadians in action at Blue Mountain in Collingwood, Ontario next week, Jan. 19 and 20.

No Stopping Mellisa
A week of illness and painful ribs couldn’t slow down skeleton star Mellisa Hollingsworth. Today at the historic sliding track in St. Moritz, Switzerland, she captured a silver medal in skeleton. On the men’s side, Mike Douglas matched his career-best result with a fourth-place finish.

Heil Strong Again
Canadian moguls great Jenn Heil won a unique gold medal at a World Cup in Deer Valley, USA on Thursday night. She shared the gold medal with American Heather McPhie. Regardless it is the 45th World Cup freestyle medal for Heil, and launches her into first place overall in the World Cup moguls standings. She’s at it again on Saturday night at the same hill in Park City, Utah. The men’s and ladies aerials skiers compete tonight.

Two Snowboard Cross Medals
Canadians made a splash at a snowboard cross World Cup in Veysonnaz, Switzerland. Dominique Maltais won silver and Maelle Ricker won bronze, behind Norway’s Helene Olafsen. On the men’s side, Francois Boivin had a strong day, finishing fourth – and meeting Canadian Olympic Team criteria.

Figure Skating Drama
We will all find out who will represent Canada in figure skating at the Olympic Winter Games after the national championships that run through Sunday in London, Ontario. The undisputed leaders of the team are defending Canadian champions Patrick Chan and Joannie Rochette (who has won four straight titles) in singles, Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison in pairs and Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in ice dance.

Past these skaters, there will be high competition for the remaining Olympic berths. The Canadian Olympic Team will include two entries in each of the four events. What happens in London this weekend will help determine who those skaters will be.

Kocher Sets Pace in Biathlon
Canada’s top women’s biathlete, Zina Kocher, came up with a team-best result at a World Cup on Jan. 13. Kocher finished 30th in 7.5 km sprint in Ruhpolding, Germany and is coming into her own at just the right time. Teammate Megan Imrie finished 94th. In the men’s 10 km sprint the following day, Canada’s men finished well back of the leaders. They were led by Brendan Green in 78th spot, Robin Clegg in 86th, Marc-Andre Bedard in 88th and Jean Philippe Leguellec uncharacteristically distant at 98th. There were 131 athletes competing.

Alpine Action
In Flachau, Austria, hometown to skiing legend Hermann Maier, Brigitte Acton was the top Canadian in a night slalom race on Jan. 12. Acton finished 24th in a time of 1:42.11. Eve Routhier was 34th, Shona Rubens 43rd and Erin Mielzynski 49th. The ladies technical team races the giant slalom this weekend in Maribor, Slovenia. Meanwhile, on Friday in Wengen, Switzerland, Ryan Semple was Canada’s stop skier at a super combined World Cup. He was 23rd in a race won by American Bode Miller.

Remembering Gordon Van Tol
Gordon Van Tol, a water polo player on the 1984 Canadian Olympic Team, died of a heart attack this past Monday, Jan. 11. He was 49. Van Tol was a proficient goal scorer in water polo. He had four goals in three classification games and one goal in three matches at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games. He helped Canada win bronze at the 1983 Pan American Games and finish 14th at the 1982 World Championships. Just five years ago, Van Tol set an Ontario masters swimming record in the 4×200-metre freestyle relay. He is remembered for his infectiously positive spirit and exceptional athleticism. The Canadian Olympic Team extends its sincere condolences to his family and friends.