BY: Donna Cumming PHOTOGRAPHY: Mike Ridewood
The Canadian mogul team had another highly successful World Cup on home soil, capturing five of six podium positions. With the event taking place at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, the Canadian team took the opportunity to give back to the Calgary ski community, as they hosted a Community Day following the World Cup competition.
Saturday’s World Cup event had an excellent turnout from local families and skiers. As the Canadians rose to victory, fans that filled the lower viewing area and lined the upper bowl enthusiastically supported them.
“It was great, there were a lot of people there. We had VIP, and friends and family come out,” said Michelle Leslie, the manager of logistics and administration for the event. “A lot of news outlets were there to report the event itself, and we had five out of six podium wins for Canada so that was amazing, it was a really good turnout.”
Surrounded by friends, family and avid freestyle fans cheering them on with Canadian flags and giant posters with the athletes faces on them, both the men’s and women’s Canadian teams dominated the event from start to finish.
“I was so excited to be standing on the podium with my teammates, it was awesome,” said Andi Naude, who finished third in the women’s competition. “My mom, dad, and brother all made it out which is really cool, I’m so glad I could perform in front of them. Competing on home soil is always so cool, we’re so lucky to have so many supporters. To see them all there was really special.”
Following a long and exciting day of competition, the Canadian athletes were up early the next morning to get back to the mountain for the second annual Community Day. This event allowed local community members to meet and interact with the mogul athletes.
“Essentially, it’s about getting the community to come out, to get together and become a unified community of skiers,” explained Leslie. “We want to congratulate the athletes for all the hard work that they do and really show the community how much the athletes appreciate the fans coming out and cheering them on at the World Cup. It’s really just getting people together to come out, have fun, and learn a new sport.”
“I really think it’s important that we give back to the community and spend some time with the kids, because that’s the future of our sport,” said Naude. “I strongly believe that this is something that we should be doing a lot of. I’m really glad that we could do this today.”
The four-hour event featured 13 of Canada’s top mogul athletes, who alternated between an autograph table and the ski hill. At the autograph table, the fans could come and talk to the athletes, ask them questions, get their posters or ski equipment signed, and pose for pictures with the athletes.
Other athletes went out and skied with aspiring young athletes, taking them through the mogul course, and coaching them a little bit. They introduced the sport to those who were unfamiliar with mogul skiing and gave pointers on how to improve for those who were already involved in the sport.
“It was super fun to go out and ski with them. Some of them are pretty die-hard fans, which is fun to see,” said Calgary native and National team member, Clare Lambert. “They came and watched the event yesterday and know who we are, so they’re asking us questions and they want us to give them tips.”
“I think it’s really good to have the Community Day because when we were younger they didn’t have the World Cup here and for me, growing up I didn’t know any National team athletes. I’d never really seen them,” explained Luke Ulsifer, another National team member who grew up in Calgary. “I think it’s cool for them to get to see us and hang out with us a little bit. It’s something that’s really easy for us to do and I think it goes a long way for them.”
Not only does this event help promote freestyle skiing to aspiring young athletes, it also gives them the opportunity to interact on a personal level with the best athletes in the sport. In the short time, they spend together, these athletes have the power to inspire the next generation of skiers to push their limits and pursue their goals by demonstrating that it can be done.
“It makes it very real to the kids. It’s important that we’re not just some idolized group of people that’s not really there,” said Naude. “I think having it in their hometown right there with them, and being able to interact with us and see that we’re just normal people, I think that’s really cool for them.”