Calgary, Alta. (April 7 , 2017) – The FIS Freestyle World Junior Championships were underway this week in Valmalenco (ITA) and members of the Next Gen Canada Ski Cross team are coming home with hardware after a podium performance from both the men’s and ladies’ team.
Eight up-and-coming Canada Ski Cross stars were selected to attend the Championships this week and the team came away with four top-eight performances. Banff’s Zach Belczyk advanced heat after heat all the way to the big finals where he came away with a silver medal. Alexa Velcic, Calgary native, podiumed on the ladies’ side finishing with a bronze medal.
“The day was a pretty interesting day,” said Belczyk. “I was sitting about mid-pack during qualifications and all the brackets for today were scrambled and interesting. I was really focused on my start today since it was such a short course and there was no room for error. Overall, I’m super pumped, excited and really proud to represent Canada!”
“I had a lot of small challenges during the race but stayed focused on executing the start section well and moved through the heats,” said Velcic. “My final heat was pretty intimidating, with three Swedish girls, one of the being the current world champion and world junior champion, Sandra Naeslund. They are so competitive with each other that it was better to let them battle and make mistakes and I was able to capitalize and get on the podium! A great finish to this season!”
B.C.’s Reece Howden made it to the small finals where he finished in seventh-place and Zoe Chore, also from B.C., finished in eighth-place demonstrating both the men’s and ladies’ Next Gen team is poised for success on the World Cup tour in the future.
Canadian athletes competed in tough heats, stacked with top juniors from around the world, many of which race on the World Cup circuit. Thirty-two men and 16 ladies vied for top honours on a challenging course and in tough, warm conditions. The Canadian team was set up for success after a great preparation period in Calgary and Austria after racing on home snow in Blue Mountain (CAN).
“The amazing Canadian top eight results for both men and women is a testament to their Canada Next Gen program in Calgary,” said Sead Causevic, Next Gen Canada Ski Cross coach. “They are able to train really hard on snow and at the CSI-Calgary gym, while staying immersed in their post-secondary education. We are really happy with the performances here.”
3 – Alexa Velcic
8 – Zoe Chore
2 – Zach Belczyk
7 – Reece Howden
17 – Jason Oliemans
32 – Jared Schmidt