26 skiers take part in slalom and giant slalom events
Young skiers from around the province ascended White Hills resort on Thursday and Friday, only to race down at high speeds in an attempt to capture Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games medals.
The alpine skiing event is not a regular sport for the NL Winter Games as the only actual facilities on the island are in Corner Brook and Clarenville. Labrador also has Smokey Mountain near Labrador City.
Tony Walsh is the coach of the team from Labrador. He tells The Packet he is excited to see alpine as part of the Winter Games this year.
“There’s three hills. It’s the first time in maybe ten years—twelve years, we’ve had three hills compete against each other. Smokey Mountain, Marble Mountain, White Hills. It’s fantastic! It’s the best!”
He says it’s a great environment for the kids.
“Hats off to the whole organization, the whole organizing committee, White Hills, everybody that volunteers, everybody down to that school where we’re staying. Amazing tournament. We’re loving it!”
While the cold temperatures continued through Winter Games week, it hasn’t overly affected the conditions.
“We don’t have a large pack of racers so the course isn’t getting too chopped up,” says Clarenville coach Andrew Sharpe.
“We are seeing a decent amount of ice, especially (Friday), and where it’s slalom, the turns are really tight so it’s going to make a bit more of a difference but all in all, conditions are good.”
The giant slalom event went ahead on Thursday, which saw winners from many different age categories.
In the male 16-to-18-year-old category, Patrick Hickey of Western won gold. Bailey White, also of Western, won silver and host team representative Jesse Stanley won bronze.
Jordan Woolfrey of Central won in the 16-to-18-year-old female category and her brother Alex won gold in male 15 and under. Patrick Walsh of Labrador and Gerry Byrne of Western won silver and bronze respectively in 15U.
In the female 15 and under, Western finished first, second, and third, with Erin Grabka, Carley May and Katie Perry.
On Friday, the slalom event was contested on a long course.
In the male 16-to-18 category, Johnathan Burt of St. John’s North won gold, Bailey White won silver and Patrick Hickey won bronze.
In female 16-18, Jordan Woolfrey took her second gold medal.
Jordan’s brother, Alex, also won his second gold in the male 15U, with Erik Khune of Labrador getting silver and Gerry Byrne receiving bronze.
Finally, the 15U female group had Katie Perry get gold, Abigail Hickey of Western get silver and Erin Grabka get bronze.
For the host team coach, the experience needs to be about positivity. That’s how he motivates his skiers.
“My main thing is having a positive environment. I want these kids to enjoy themselves. Winning is great, but it’s not everything.”
The young coach brings a refreshing attitude to his approach. As each skier got ready for their run, Sharpe looked them square in the eye, one-on-one, completely focused.
He uses messages of praise and confidence to relax the young athletes. The Winter Games is the first racing competition for the entire host team.
“The kids are loving it,” Sharpe says, “You know, a lot of the kids here, actually everybody on our host team, this is their first race ever. So (Thursday), the first run of their first race they were all nervous. Came back up for the second run, they were just like “Oh, we love racing!” So we’re really breeding some passion into them now.”
Passion is definitely a major part of Sharpe’s style.
“We race with determination. I told them, if you fall, you hike. This is going to build some good life skills. If I talk to them positive, they start to see that and they’re going to talk to themselves positive and that’s going to go through with them for the rest of their lives.”