Elation, heartbreak highlight freestyle Olympic team
It came down to a final squeeze, sending some to Vancouver and others to the end of their Olympic dream.
The 18 members of Canada's Olympic freestyle ski team were announced in Montreal on Monday.
The positions — split between aerialists, mogul skiers and skicross racers — were hotly contested right down to the final World Cup event in Lake Placid, N.Y., over the weekend.
In the end, the team looks like this:
Moguls: Jennifer Heil (pre-selected last season), Kristi Richards, Chloé Dufour-Lapointe, Pierre Alexandre-Rousseau, Vincent Marquis, Maxime Gingras and Alex Bilodeau.
Aerials: Steve Omischl (pre-selected last season), Warren Shouldice, Kyle Nissen and Veronika Bauer.
Skicross: Ashleigh McIvor (pre-selected last season), Julia Murray, Kelsey Serwa, Danielle Poleschuk, Stan Hayer, Chris Del Bosco and Dave Duncan.
The freestyle team is expected to be one of Canada's best hopes at racking in medals in Vancouver. But with only 18 spots available, Canada has left medal contenders off the final list of competitors.
Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association, lamented the fact that only four spots were added by the IOC in the freestyle category when skicross was added under the sports' umbrella for its Olympic debut.
"We're elated to be sending such a strong team overall with significant medal chances," Judge said in a news release. "But we're also saddened to be leaving athletes who have won World Cup medals in the last 14 months, like skicross racers Davey Barr and Aleisha Cline as well as aerialist Ryan Blais, at home."
The final weekend in Lake Placid was dramatic to say the least.
Positions on the Olympic team are based on the results of skiers, regardless of disciplines, over the past two seasons (the top two finishes from last season are combined with at least two from this season to determine an athletes' position).
Canadian athletes on the cusp of making the team not only had to compete against each other but also had to keep an eye on results from the other disciplines as well.
Despite aerialist Ryan Blais's bronze-medal performance on Friday night, he was narrowly edged out by teammate Olivier Rochon as one of the top four aerialists eligible to make the Olympic team.
It was heart-breaking for Blais, who just missed out on making the 2006 Winter Olympics as well.
Meanwhile, Rochon had to wait for the skicross final on Sunday to know if he would make the final cut for the Olympic team.
And the Canadian skicross racers were exceptional. Kelsey Serwa and Chris Del Bosco won gold in the women's and men's competitions. Both had already secured their spots on the team.
But the real story was Dave Duncan, who sat on the cusp entering the final World Cup competition. His final race ended up being the most important of his career.
He reached the podium with a bronze medal — just enough to edge out Rochon for a ticket to Vancouver.