Canadians help make history as ski mountaineering debuts at Youth Olympic Games

VILLARS-SUR-OLLON, Switzerland – The thrill of this historic moment was evident on Friday afternoon on the sunny mountain side of Villar Winter Park in Switzerland as 48 young women and men from around the world took part in the first ever ski mountaineering event of the Youth Olympic Games. .

The International Olympic Committee added the event to the Youth Olympic program in July 2017. This unique sport involves skiing uphill and downhill while passing through a series of checkpoints. Certain sections of the course also require athletes to walk, carry their skis, and sometimes use other specialized equipment for steeper and more icy climbs.

With hundreds of amateurs along the 2,700-meter course, the women first entered the competition – 24 skiers including Canada’s Ema Chlepkova.

16-year-old Chlepkova is based in Calgary and is part of the Canadian Junior National Ski Mountaineering Team. She crossed the finish line in 1:10:10, placing 15th in the inaugural event.

“It’s amazing. I’m so excited. The atmosphere is amazing,” said Chlepkova after her race. “I was very happy. The hills were quite steep and it was getting quite slippery on one side from the sun.”

Canadian Ema Chelepkova kisses a volunteer after placing 15th in the first-ever ski mountaineering event at the Winter Youth Olympic Games on Friday. (Thomas Skrlj for CBC / COC 2020)

Ahead of the event, Chlepkova said she found it hard to sleep, overwhelmed with excitement about participating in the Youth Olympics.

“I could barely sleep. I was laughing and crying at the same time,” she said. “I really hope more people will join in, especially the juniors.”

Ema’s father, Matus, watched all this from the bottom of the mountain. He was also overwhelmed by the moment.

” It’s incredible. It is the first time in history that it is at the Olympic Games. Our athletes are putting Canada on the map, ”said Matus.

When asked what he said to his daughter when he first saw Ema after her run, Matus was at a loss for words.

“I was speechless. It’s so good,” Matus said, fighting back tears.

Canada’s Findlay Eyre begins his climb up the mountain in the men’s ski mountaineering event on Friday. (Thomas Skrlj for CBC / COC 2020)

It was then time for the men to tackle the difficult course as the clouds set in and snow began to fall.

Canadian Findlay Eyre set off for the mountain along with 23 other competitors. After a solid first lap, Eyre ran into trouble on the second loop.

“I fell after the second loop. My hip was hurting a lot and I wasted a lot of time,” he said after the race.

Findlay, also based in Calgary, finished 21st but was thrilled to be part of history by competing in the very first ski mountaineering event. He was also proud of his resilience after crashing.

“All the energy here was great,” Findlay said. “I think it just showed me how much I still have to grow and how much I can improve myself. The sky is the limit.”

The Swiss dominate the slopes

In front of a loud Swiss crowd, many massive cowbells and waving flags, the hometown skiers delivered.

In the women’s competition, Caroline Ulrich of Switzerland won gold and Thibe Deseyn won silver.

After the race, Ulrich explained how winning gold at the Youth Olympics was a dream come true, having grown up minutes from the venue.

Caroline Ulrich and Thibe Design kiss after finishing first and second respectively in ski mountaineering on Friday at Villars Winter Park, Switzerland. (January 10, 2020) (Thomas Skrlj for CBC / COC 2020)

“I know this mountain well. I have a chalet right there,” she said, pointing to the Villars winter park.

“I’ve been skiing here since I was a kid so it’s amazing to be here for that.

On the men’s side, it was the Swiss twin-brother duo of Robin and Thomas Bussard that sent spectators into a frenzy as they crossed the finish line to win gold and silver again, respectively, for Switzerland.

The crowd chanted wildly as the brothers walked towards the media.

“We faced each other the whole race and that motivated us,” said Thomas. “It’s beyond our wildest dreams. At home. We had the pressure. So, it’s a dream come true.”

It marks a great start to the Youth Olympic Games for the hosts and marks the start of ski mountaineering at the Games – something young athletes hope to lead to the addition of ski mountaineering to the Olympics.

WATCH: Canada completes comeback curling victory over Russia:

Canada completes victory over Russia at Youth Olympics

The Canadian Youth Olympic Winter Games curling team defeated Russia 7-4 in their opener. 1:11

Canadian gathering

The Canadian mixed curling team started off with a 7-4 win in the extra end over Russia.

Captain Nathan Young’s ice scored one in the seventh and two in the eighth before counting three in the extra end.

Young, from Torbay, NL, is joined by Opening Ceremony flag bearer Lauren Rajala, Emily Deschenes and Jaedon Neuert.

In figure skating, Brooke McIntosh of Toronto and Brandon Toste of Mississauga, Ont., Were fifth after the short pairs program.

Aleksa Rakic ​​of New Westminster, BC, was fourth after the men’s short program.

In the men’s Super-G, Louis Latulippe of Quebec and Mackenzie Wood of Toronto finished 39th and 40th respectively.

Alice Marchessault of Ste-Anne-des-Lacs, Que., Did not finish the women’s Super-G.


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