Olivier Rochon of Gatineau, Que. earned his first FIS World Cup medal here, finishing second in the aerial event of the Canada Post Grand Prix at Ski Mont Gabriel.
Rochon went up against Pavel Krotov of Russia, Naoya Tabara of Japan and Stanislav Kravchuk of the Ukraine in the four-man super-final today. It was the first aerial world cup of the season, and the first time the new super final format was used at this level of competition. Under the new rules, the top four jumpers from finals jump again to determine the order of the podium.
Krotov took the gold today, while Tabara was bronze, leaving Kravchuk out of the medals in fourth. It was the first World Cup podium for all three medalists.
Today’s performance was especially poignant for Rochon who was suspended last year for not following the rules.
“After my year off I got back into shape and saw that I hadn’t missed that much. I think that while it probably wasn’t the best circumstances to take a year off, in the end it was the best year because it was the first year of the four year Olympic cycle and because it was my first year off ever from sports so I got to see what the outside world is all about and, well, I like the sports world better. Now I’m 100 percent committed to my sport.”
Rochon’s medal was the first for a Quebec skier since the heydays of the illustrious Quebec Airforce – the last aerials medal won by a Quebecker was a gold in 2002, by Nicolas Fontaine.
It was also a great day for Milton, Ontario’s Travis Gerrits who finished just out of the super final, in fifth position, after slapping back on his full, double full, full – a quadruple twisting, triple backflip. Today was the first time Gerrits had performed that jump in competition.
“For sure this result for me is awesome because it’s my best-ever world cup finish, but I had high exceptions coming into today and I obviously would have like to make it to the super final,” said Gerrits.
In another first, Tabara’s medal is the only world cup aerials medal on the record books for Japan, and one that has a Canadian connection. In fact Tabara and his teammate Takanori Minami have been training with the Canadian Team for the past three years.
“After 2010 the Japanese ski federation was going to cut their program, but in aerials and in Canadian Freestyle we have a culture of helping each other. So we get some money from Japan to coach their athletes and we put that money towards our own athlete development program,” explained Canadian Aerial Head Coach Daniel Murphy, who added, “I’m really happy for Tabara and I hope Japan recognizes his skill and rallies behind him and the aerial program now.”
The third Canadian in today’s event, Jean-Christophe Andre of Montreal was 14th today.
With both Canadian female aerialists out with injuries, Canada was not represented in the women’s event today. The podium on the women’s side went to Olga Volkova of the Ukraine who took the gold, Emily Cook of the US who was second and Laura Peel of Australia who was third.