2017-18 Team Canada Winter Preview: Freestyle Skiing
At Sochi 2014, Canada won more medals in freestyle skiing than any other country.
The potential is there to do that once again at PyeongChang 2018 with podium contenders across all five disciplines.
Who is competing?
Freestyle Canada named the following athletes to its World Cup group for 2017-18:
Aerials: Travis Gerrits, Lewis Irving, Catrine Lavallée, Olivier Rochon
Moguls: Chloé Dufour-Lapointe, Justine Dufour-Lapointe, Maxime Dufour-Lapointe, Laurent Dumais, Alex-Anne Gagnon, Marc-Antoine Gagnon, Mikaël Kingsbury, Philippe Marquis, Andi Naude, Simon Pouliot-Cavanagh, Audrey Robichaud
Alpine Canada named the following athletes to its national team for 2017-18:
When and where are they competing?
There are numerous pre-Olympic World Cup stops for all freestyle disciplines, as well as some invite-only events for the halfpipe and slopestyle skiers.
Aerials and Moguls:
December 9, 2017 – Ruka, Finland (moguls)
December 16-22, 2017 – Secret Garden/Thaiwoo, China (aerials and moguls)
January 1, 2018 – Moscow, Russia (aerials)
January 6, 2018 – Calgary, Alberta (moguls)
January 10-12, 2018 – Deer Valley, Utah (aerials and moguls)
January 19-20, 2018 – Lake Placid, New York (aerials)
January 20, 2018 – Tremblant, Quebec (moguls)
Halfpipe and Slopestyle:
November 24-26, 2017 – Stubai, Austria (slopestyle)
December 6-8, 2017 – Copper Mountain, Colorado (halfpipe)
December 13-17, 2017 – Dew Tour – Brekenridge, Colorado (halfpipe and slopestyle)
December 20-22, 2017 – Secret Garden, China (halfpipe)
December 21-23, 2017 – Font Remeu, France (slopestyle)
January 10-13, 2018 – Snowmass, Colorado (halfpipe and slopestyle)
January 18-20, 2018 – Mammoth Mountain, California (halfpipe and slopestyle)
January 25-28, 2018 – X Games – Aspen, Colorado (halfpipe and slopestyle)
December 7-9, 2017 – Val Thorens, France
December 11-12, 2017 – Arosa, Switzerland
December 14-15, 2017 – Montafon, Austria
December 20-22, 2017 – Innichen, Italy
January 12-14, 2018 – Idre Fjall, Sweden
January 19-20, 2018 – Nakiska, Alberta
How do they qualify for PyeongChang 2018?
There are a lot of numbers in play when it comes to deciding which freestyle skiers will compete in PyeongChang. There will be a total of 282 skiers, divided among the events as follows:
Aerials – 25 men/25 women
Moguls – 30 men/30 women
Halfpipe – 30 men/24 women
Slopestyle – 30 men/24 women
Ski cross – 32 men/32 women
Each country can earn up to 30 spots but there is a limit of 16 per gender and four entries per event. The qualification window opened on July 1, 2016 and will close on January 21, 2018. Results from FIS World Cup and World Championship events during that period will be used to create an Olympic Quota Allocation List. Starting from the top, one Olympic berth will be awarded per athlete until the above maximums are met.
Based on their results in some key competitions last season, Freestyle Canada has already pre-qualified Mikaël Kingsbury, Justine Dufour-Lapointe, and Andi Naude to Team Canada for PyeongChang 2018. Those nominations will become official at the end of the qualification period.
What should we watch for?
Four years after he finished second to teammate Alex Bilodeau, Mikaël Kingsbury has his eyes squarely on Olympic gold. Having won nine of 11 World Cup moguls events in 2016-17, he’s coming off what he calls the best season of his career, which is really something when you consider it was the sixth straight year he claimed the Crystal Globe as the overall World Cup champion for all of freestyle skiing. But that success just drives him to be even better.
Whether we will see all three Dufour-Lapointe sisters together at another Olympic Games depends on results over the next couple of months. Justine is already in, but there are, at most, just two more spots available in women’s moguls. Last year, Chloé finished just behind the pre-qualified Andi Naude in the World Cup standings, while Maxime was one place behind Audrey Robichaud.
Only time will tell if Marielle Thompson gets a shot at defending her Olympic gold in ski cross. In mid-October, the reigning World Cup champion ruptured her ACL and MCL when she crashed during training in Switzerland. She underwent surgery and has started her rehab at the gym.
But the ski cross team certainly isn’t lacking in depth. Olympic silver medallist Kelsey Serwa is back after missing the second half of last season with her own knee injury. Meanwhile Georgia Simmerling could become Canada’s second winter-summer Olympic medallist after winning track cycling bronze at Rio 2016. And on the men’s side, Brady Leman was second in last year’s World Cup standings.
On any given day, numerous members of the halfpipe and slopestyle teams could lay down a medal-winning run. In Sochi, it was Mike Riddle who came through in the pipe, as he did in winning silver at the 2017 World Championships. But there have also been X Games podiums for Noah Bowman, Simon d’Artois, Roz Groenewoud, and Cassie Sharpe. The same goes in slopestyle, which saw a double podium from Dara Howell and Kim Lamarre in Sochi. Since then, Alex Beaulieu-Marchand and Alex Bellemare have both won X Games medals.
Olivier Rochon hopes this is the year he finally fulfills his Olympic dream. The overall World Cup champion for aerials in 2011-12, he missed the chance to compete at Sochi 2014 when he tore his ACL just a couple of months before the Games.