For their season opener, a double program awaits the aerials athletes of Freestyle Canada at Secret Garden, China, on December 16 and 17. The venue is already being prepped to hold the freestyle ski and snowboard events at the 2022 Olympic Games, but for now, the aerialists have their sights set on doing well in China as they vie to qualify for the 2018 Games.
The group of four Canadian athletes departed for Asia after skiing for a month in Ruka, Finland, the site of their first annual snow camp and also the venue for the Europa Cup. Olivier Rochon and Lewis Irving both took turns on the second step of the podium on the two days of the competition. Irving, who was forced by an injury to sit out the last leg of the 2017 season, was heartened by his results: “I am really happy – all of the work I did on that water ramp to prepare for this camp paid off. I’m pleased with the outcome. I landed all my jumps.” His objective now is to forge ahead and achieve a quadruple-twisting triple backflip and to possibly add a lay double full full for the World Cup in China.
Team veteran Olivier Rochon, also encouraged by his results in Ruka, looks ahead to the season with equanimity and a clear plan: “In terms of performance, my plan hasn’t changed even though it’s an Olympic year. My goal is a podium finish. I know I can make the finals in each competition,” says the confident Gatineau-born athlete. “Right now I’m feeling an excitement that I didn’t feel in other Olympic qualifications. I also feel a level of calmness that is almost certainly due to last summer’s training. I’ll be working on my new jump, the lay triple full full, which I did once on snow last year but will try to do more often this season. The goal is to find the consistency that earned me the Crystal Globe.”
The group’s only female competitor, Catrine Lavallée, is also feeling plenty of nervous energy as the Secret Garden event approaches. Ending the last season with a strong performance at her first FIS World Championships in Sierra Nevada, Lavallée now has her sights set on her first Olympic Games. She has good reason to feel optimistic after last season and hopes to make the top six in a few World Cups. “I’ve worked on a new move this summer – a triple twisting double back flip, which is a very difficult jump that other skiers have landed and has helped them finish second, third or fourth at Worlds. My goal now is to do that jump in competition,” says the Montrealer. “In China, my aim is to get a good ranking in the two competitions to further improve my odds of qualifying for the Olympics.”
Travis Gerrits has been sidelined by an injury and will not be among the athletes heading to the Secret Garden World Cup. He’s currently back on home soil for medical treatment and his progress will be regularly reassessed.