WHISTLER, B.C. (March 24, 2013) – Larisa Yurkiw got the edge in her head-to-head duel with Marie-Michele Gagnon on Sunday to claim the national downhill title at the Sport Chek Alpine Canadian Championships in Whistler, B.C.
The 24-year-old speed specialist from Owen Sound, Ont., has been locked in a battle with all-rounder Gagnon for the past few days and came out on top Sunday with a hard-charging run in perfect conditions at the Dave Murray National Training Centre.
Juniors Julia Roth, of Waterloo, Ont., and Valerie Grenier, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., also produced fast runs to finish third and fourth, respectively - with Grenier recording the same time as Sarah Freeman, of Pincher Creek, Alta. For Yurkiw, who has shown great courage and perseverance to battle back from a long-term Injury, Sunday’s national title was her first since 2008, when she won both the downhill and super-G.
“I’m happy to have it back. It’s been a long time and I skied really well today,” said Yurkiw, who clocked a time of one minute, 4.25 seconds on a track that has been speeding up with each passing day. “I risked in the right places and I feel good.
“I just stuck to my plan and tried not to change too much. Sometimes when you are on a track for a few days you start overthinking things and (going into) too much detail can be too much. I try to just keep things simple and I think I did my job. Yurkiw endured a challenging season on the World Cup circuit and came to nationals eager to get her hands on some titles. She’ll be one of the racers to beat in Monday’s super-G and will also take part in the giant slalom and slalom. “I’m doing them all and I’m just happy to race,” Yurkiw said. “I’m pretty hungry for some results.”
Gagnon is better known as a giant slalom and slalom skier but she’s had some strong results in super-G and her downhill skills took a big leap forward this season with some promising runs at the World Cup level. “Today (Larisa) got me by a little more than I wanted but I’m really happy because she’s a great downhiller and I’m happy that I’ve been competing with her all week,” said Gagnon, who crossed the finish line in 1:04.63. “I like this track. It got faster every day, which makes it more fun. The jumps are getting bigger and bigger and the speeds are high. I’m having a lot of fun. “I’m hoping to sweep as many gold (medals) as I can here - we’ll see what happens.”
Roth, a member of the Ontario Ski Team, was fast in training and held her nerve on race day to lay down a strong run. “I was really stoked to have a really clean line today. I was more aerodynamic. It was a really good day for me,” said Roth, of the Devil’s Glen Ski Club, who recorded a time of 1:05.34. “It’s a pretty big achievement. Last year I had a pretty bad injury so I’m excited to be back on the podium. “The (track) was faster today, for sure. It was pretty technical which I’m pretty good at. It was a fun track.” Grenier, a 16-year-old member of the Quebec Ski Team, had a strong run despite being relatively new to downhill.
“It went really well. Usually I have trouble with the jump at the Basketball (section), but this time I did it really well,” said Grenier, who skis out of the Mont-Tremblant club and clocked a time of 1:06.02. “I’m really happy about my season.” Jim Pollock, head technical coach for Canada’s ladies’ team, was pleased to see some strong runs Sunday.
“The track was excellent, the snow was perfect, the light was perfect. Great training all week - that’s what we need,” said Pollock. “Larisa has been pretty solid all week and Gagnon as well. They fought it out and Larisa deserved that one today.
“There were a number of young girls who were impressive all week and (Roth and Grenier) in particular. They showed it today. I was very happy that Roth could keep it going on race day - tough it out - and Grenier as well. She’s improving every day. This is her first year of downhill and she’s really starting to get it.”
Freeman, like Roth and Grenier, is a national Prospect Group identified athlete. The B.C. Ski Team member, who skis out of the Fernie Alpine Ski Team club, also clocked a time of 1:06.02 to finish in a tie for fourth. The action continues Monday with the men’s and ladies’ super-G. Jeffrey Frisch, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., won Sunday’s FIS downhill in Whistler in a time of 1:01.97. John Kucera, of Calgary, Alta., was second (1:02.66) and Whistler’s Conrad Pridy was third (1:02.79).
Meanwhile, Anna Goodman, of Pointe-Claire, Que., became the latest Canadian to claim a U.S. national title when she won Sunday’s slalom in Squaw Valley, USA. Goodman, who retired from the national team last season and has been skiing for Westminster College, took the victory after U.S. phenom Mikaela Shiffrin straddled during her second run.