Olivier Rochon has just written a new chapter in his freestyle skiing career.
The 22-year-old aerialist from Gatineau, Que., won a silver medal in a World Cup event at his favourite venue, Mont Gabriel, Que., on Sunday in his first competition in almost two years.
The national freestyle skiing association suspended Rochon in July of 2010 because of disciplinary problems and then Rochon took a sabbatical to ponder his life.
“I was not on my game,” he said. “I was not following the rules.”
When he faced the hill after being away for so long, he admitted to a case of nerves. “When I landed, a lot of pressure came off my shoulders [after the qualifying round]and I got ready for finals,” he said.
He is also the first Quebec aerialist to win a World Cup medal since Nicolas Fontaine in 2002. Fontaine was considered the world’s most accomplished aerials skier of his time from 1997 through 2002.
Once Rochon decided he wanted to rejoin the team, he trained with a vengeance. He found that his skills, with which he won rookie of the year in 2009, hadn’t left him. “It was like riding a bicycle,” he said. “You never forget.”
Rochon came back to a sport that demands a wider array of difficult tricks under new international competition formats, but he said he’d already been doing many of the difficult manoeuvres. He said he did not learn a new jump when he returned to training last summer. He said he hasn’t competed since the World Cup circuit stopped in Lake Placid, N.Y., just before the Vancouver Olympics.
In the qualification rounds, he landed a triple back flip with four twists for a mark of 127, the highest score in his career.
His goal was to start his career anew with a bang: finishing in the top three at Mont Gabriel. “At my first World Cup, I wanted to show everyone I was back and that’s what I did,” he said.
On an icy course in Les Contamines, France, Nik Zoricic finally found his way after a season of disappointment.
The 28-year-old Torontonian won a bronze in the World Cup ski cross final on Sunday, as he finally mastered new equipment that he adopted last November.
He felt relieved, he said, to finally get a medal, but a bronze wasn’t enough. He felt sharp enough to challenge Alex Fiva of Switzerland, who leads the World Cup standing.
“He’s worked really hard this year without getting too many results,” assistant coach Brent Kehl said of Zoricic. “ But [Sunday]he really got the course dialled in. He’s got a quick start, and he was able to get in front in most of them [races]”
Zoricic, a son of renowned alpine coach Bebe Zoricic, is in only his third season as a ski crosser, but had a breakthrough season last year, winning a silver medal at a World Cup event in Austria.
But this year, he said, it’s taken time to adjust to new skis, boots and bindings. He had the equipment only five or six days before the first race. “The skis weren’t moving as fast as they needed to,” he said. “It wasn’t easy because things didn’t go well right off the top, and you start questioning everything. But it’s nice to stop the bleeding and remind myself that I belong and that I can do this.”
His previous best was a seventh last Wednesday.
At a World Cup in Mont Gabriel, Que., on Saturday, 19-year-old Mikael Kingsbury of Oka, Que., won his second dual moguls event (he’s also won a moguls event) to remain undefeated on the circuit this season. Kingsbury won decisively, while Olympic champion Alex Bilodeau of Rosemere, Que.,, fell after his second jump and finished 39th, out of the finals. Justine Dufour-Lapointe of Montreal, 17, finished second to Olympic champion Hannah Kearney of the United States in the dual moguls final on Saturday, but pushed her to the limit. She took her second silver medal of the season after a small mistake just before the second jump.
Chandra Crawford and Perianne Jones won their first World Cup medal – a bronze – on Sunday at a team sprint even in Milan, Italy. It was the second medal this season for the 2006 Olympic sprint champion, Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., and the first for Jones, of Almonte, Ont., in her career. In a skate-ski race on Saturday in very warm conditions, Crawford finished seventh, with three Canadians in the top 15.
The Canadian bobsleigh team, buoyed by the appearance of the recovering Chris Spring, who had been released from hospital after a crash at a four-man bobsleigh training run in Germany, won a silver medal in the two-man bob on Saturday. Lyndon Rush of Humboldt. Sask., and former CFL star Jesse Lumsden of Burlington won silver in the two-man bob in Konigssee, Germany on Saturday: the first World Cup medal for Lumsden since he started the sport in 2009-10.
Rush encountered a number of roadblocks in the four-man event on Sunday. During the first run, his sled ran over an air horn that had fallen onto the track, and then he encountered difficulties in the second run to finish eighth overall.
The Canada 1 sled is made up of Rush, Lumsden, Cody Sorensen of Ottawa and Neville Wright of Edmonton.
Kaillie Humphries of Calgary and Emily Baadsvik of St. Stephen, N.B., won a silver in women’s bobsleigh and Melissa Hollingsworth of Eckville, Alta., won bronze in women’s skeleton.
World downhill champion Eric Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., finished in a tie for eighth down the Lauberhorn in Wengen, Switzerland on the longest course on the World Cup circuit. Michael Janyk of Whistler, B.C. was 19th in a slalom at Wengen on Sunday.
Alex Gough of Calgary finished fourth over a difficult course at Oberhof, Germany on Saturday. During her second run, she set a track record of 42.393 seconds that was later overtaken by winner Natalie Geisenberger of Germany (42.050.)