Slow but difficult course gives Ontario, Quebec more medals

Nicole Feriancek, Staff Contributor

A crowd of nearly a hundred was lucky to see the first snowboarding event of the Canada Winter Games at ski Martock last Tuesday. In the Parallel Giant Slalom event, dozens of talented boarders carved their way through the flag-lined course, crossing the finish line to the loud cheers of their parents, coaches, teammates, and even the grade three class from Windsor Elementary School.

In the men’s event, Quebec cleaned up, taking the top two medals, while Ontario claimed bronze. Junior national team member Sebastien Beaulieu, 20, beat out teammate Indrik Trahan to win the gold. Trahan, 17, took the silver medal at his first Canada Games.

Bronze medalist Richie Evanoff, 19, is also on the junior national team and is training to make the 2014 Olympic Games in Russia. He said he was impressed by the atmosphere of the games in Halifax.

“I didn’t really know what to expect coming into it,” he said in between races. “When you get here, it almost feels like mini-Olympics. It’s pretty cool. It’s definitely a different feel than any other race.” Evanoff recently competed in his first World Cup, and was competing in the United States two days after his Canada Games races.

Parallel Giant Slalom is a speed event, where two athletes race side-by-side, each weaving around their own sets of flags. Any athlete that misses a gate is disqualified. Often if a gate is missed, the snowboarder will stop and backtrack, which kills their time but keeps them in the competition.

On the course, two separate lines of flags zigzag down the hill—red on the left side, blue on the right. Athletes push themselves to go as fast as they can, while staying in control. Take one turn too hard, or catch an edge on the icy slope, and you wipe out and loose the race. On the athletes: helmets, goggles, colourful snow suits, number bibs, and boots with elevated hard bindings that look different than regular snowboard bindings. At the last Canada Games, riders wore one-piece spandex racing suits (like alpine skiers). The change was made to stay true to the snowboarding culture and to encourage more participation from young athletes.

In the preliminary round, 18 women and 24 men from across Canada competed for a spot in the

elimination round. After two runs each, the best combined times decided the 16 men and eight women

who were to move on. (Because more than two women were disqualified, the second round went right

to eight.)

In the first round, the racing partner does not matter; all athletes compete individually to achieve the fastest times. But in all other rounds, only the winner of the pair moves on. Martock’s course was slow, taking about 50 seconds to complete, compared to a typical time of about 30 seconds on other courses in Canada. However, the last few gates at the bottom were the most difficult and at least half a dozen athletes crashed.

“You’re coming on to it with not a lot of speed and then there are really rough conditions,” said Evanoff. “It’s tough to balance.”

Zach Francis was Nova Scotia’s top finisher in 8th place, making it to the semi-finals. In the preliminaries his first time was disqualified after he mistakenly crossed the finish on the wrong side. He was consistently friendly and positive, smiling, taking off his goggles and waving to the (always cheering) crowd after every run.

In the women’s event, only Ontario and Quebec made it to the podium.

Ontario’s Hannah Silk captured the gold. The 19-year-old is not only a cancer survivor, but also a student-athlete, studying nursing at Trent University. Quebec’s Jade Depont reached her goal of standing on the podium and took the silver medal. The 18-year-old has been snowboarding since she was four.

In the small final—to decide the bronze medal, Nova Scotia’s Kita McRory, 21, went head-to-head against Ontario’s Jessica Herron, 18. After two runs, Herron crossed the line first and won the bronze for Ontario. She has been in the sport for 10 years and said she loves the adrenaline that comes from the extreme speed.

A lively announcer and constant high-energy music kept the spectators dancing (if only to stay warm) all day at the bottom of the hill at Martock.

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