All in all, we'll take it. Conditions for the World Cup moguls opener at Mont Gabriel, Quebec, were not ideal, in fact far from it: it was raining, for starters. But U.S. veteran Shannon Bahrke came through with her sixth career World Cup win and a young men's squad got some promise for the future as the World Cup tour finally got under way Saturday. It was the first Cup moguls event in 10 months and a day.
MONT GABRIELE, Quebec — All in all, we'll take it.
Conditions for the World Cup moguls opener at Mont Gabriel, Quebec, were not ideal, in fact far from it: it was raining, for starters. But U.S. veteran Shannon Bahrke came through with her sixth career World Cup win and a young men's squad got some promise for the future as the World Cup tour finally got under way Saturday. It was the first Cup moguls event in 10 months and a day.
"They did a great job getting this event in," said U.S. head coach Jeff Wintersteen. "It was nice to get one in. We can all be thankful for that.
Wintersteen was pleased on a number of fronts. Not the least of all with the win from Bahrke, one of few veterans left on a team which has sustained a ton of retirements following the 2006 Olympics.
Bahrke, fourth in the qualifying run, upped her first-run total when it counted and out-turned all of her competition save teammate Hannah Kearney. Swede Sara Kjellin, with the fastest time and best jump scores, finished second by the smallest possible hundredth-of-a-point margin. Austrian veteran Margarita Marbler was third and Czech Nikola Sudova fourth.
"The snow got soft because of all the rain and it's been super warm up here," said U.S. moguls coach Scott Rawles. "Shannon skied a good, clean run — her jumps were clean, and you know she laid down a good run because she moved up from fourth. We're psyched for her because she's worked so hard all summer and finally has her health back. Combine those two things — good training, good health — and she's back!"
Kearney, matching Bahrke's turn score exactly, finished in fifth place. Teammate Heather McPhie, a rookie on tour, got her first World Cup points in sixth.
"I'm so excited, I can't believe it," Barhke said, even three hours after the competition. "All those injuries, all that bad stuff is behind me now. It's been too long, so this is even sweeter."
Since winning the 2003 World Cup title, she had, among other things, broke her jaw when she slammed down on a ski pole in the middle of run in 2004 and then tore her right anterior cruciate ligament in '05.
Of the weather, she said, "It was terrible and I know the rain bothered some people, but it didn't bother me. I'm used to it and I was just so glad to be starting the season. Some days you feel like everything's gonna be good, and that's how I was this morning. It was so good to get back up there and get going."
Despite the frustrating non-start to the season — until Saturday, Bahrke said she had drawn some inspiration from the historic run of success by the U.S. alpine team before Christmas.
"I know and like so many people on the alpine team — Steven [Nyman], Julia [Mancuso], Marco [Sullivan — who also grew up skiing at Squaw Valley and who was fourth in a World Cup race last month] … and they give me so much inspiration. And it seems harder because they have so many athletes in their races. I feed off that, for sure," Bahrke said.
The U.S. men did not fare as well with Nate Roberts overcoming a bit of nerves to corral fifth as Aussie Dale Begg-Smith continued the run which crushed the rest of the men's tour last season, earning the Olympic gold and World Cup title by winning his seventh Cup event, all since December 2005. Frenchman Guilbaut Colas got second, matching his career best from Jisan Forest, Japan last season, where he also fell to Begg-Smith. Alexandre Bilodeau, the young Canadian who kick-started his career at Mont Gabriel with a win a season ago, claimed third.
"Nate was nervous this morning," revealed Wintersteen." I thought he did a great job to get back on the horse after the disappointment of last season."
Roberts had entered the 2006 Olympic season as the defending world champion, yet could not crack the four-man Olympic team featuring Jeremy Bloom, Travis Cabral, Toby Dawson and Travis Mayer, all of whom are gone this season. If there was a stunner among the men's performance it was Sho Kashima, who made finals in his first Cup start.
"For a bunch of new kids, it was pretty good," said Wintersteen. "Sho Kashima making finals was great in his first World Cup start."
The coach said the effort of Heather McPhie was outstanding, and said if not for some small mistakes Hannah Kearney would have scored well. "I was excited about how she skied in practice," he said. "She just made some mistakes today."
Bahrke, though, was definitely the highlight of his day. "It was great to have a good result. She skied great, and the course didn't really suit her, it was more of an air course."
Despite packing four men and four women into finals (12 for each gender), the homestanding Canadians got smoked, with Bilodeau bringing in the only podium and no other placing better than seventh. Jennfier Heil, leading the women's event in qualification, slid to 11th with several major miscues.
They, too, had reason to hope for better results down the line. Maxime Gingras got his best career result in eighth and Vincent Marquis his second-best career mark in 11th.
FREESTYLE WORLD CUP
Mont Gabriel, Quebec — Jan. 6, 2007
Men's moguls (12 make finals)
1. Dale Begg-Smith, Australia, 25.74 points
2. Guillbaut Colas, France, 25.59
3. Alendre Bilodeau, Canada, 25.55
4. Denis Dolgodvorov, Russia, 25.42
5. Nate Roberts, Park City, Utah, 25.23
12. Sho Kashima, Zephyr Cove, Nev., 22.91
15. Jay Bowman-Kirigin, Salt Lake City
23. Michael Morse, Duxbury, Mass.
45. Dave Babic, Washington, Vt.
52. David Digravio, Farmington, Maine
1. Shannon Bahrke, Tahoe City, Calif., 24.60
2. Sara Kjelin, Sweden, 24.59
3. Margarita Marbler, Austria, 24.46
4. Nikola Sudova, Czech Republic, 24.01
5. Hannah Kearney, Norwich, Vt., 23.92
6. Heather McPhie, Bozeman, Mont., 23.74
10. Shelly Robertson, Reno, Nev., 21.34
13. Michelle Roark, Denver, 21.89
25. Jillian Vogtli, Ellicotville, N.Y.