for those in the snow

Freestyle athletes nominate their World Champion winners

Freeski  slopestyle athlete and Australian medal hope at the FIS Freestyle World Championships in Utah this week, Anna Segal, packs a hell of a lot of punch for her diminutive size.

At first glance she’s big enough to be a key ring, albeit a glamorous one.  Don’t let that deter you, my mother always said good things come in small packages, and she’s right. I’ve witnessed Anna throw herself off cliffs in the Utah backcountry with panache and style worthy of the Paris catwalks while us mere mortals sidestepped around it.

This pocket rocket ‘chick with stix’ from Mt Buller, Victoria in Australia has shared the podium with the slopestyle big guns. She was the first female to win slopestyle gold at the Aspen Winter X Games in 2008 and she’s hoping to be the first female to win at the FIS World Championships in Deer Valley, Park City Utah.

“This is the first time that slope-style has been included in the FIS World Championships and I’m just really excited to be representing my country” Anna told Miss SIA. “I’m hoping to make it to finals and ultimately up onto the podium. There is some really tough competition, mainly from the US and Canadian athletes, so it’s not going to be a walk in the park.”

She’s not wrong, Park City has experienced the coldest day this winter, if not on record this week and it’s impacting the snow.

” The speed has been really slow the last two days of practice- really cold new snow and a constant head wind so I haven’t been able to clear the big side of the jumps” ,says Anna.  “I hate hitting the small side but everyone is in the same boat.”

You can see the course she’s talking about at Snow Blind who will be reporting live from the event.  So who is Anna hoping to see compete at the FIS World Championships?  The Aussies and Kiwis of course.

“I’m watching out for Russ Henshaw {he won silver at X Games} in slopestyle, Jossi and Byron Wells in slope-style and half-pipe and Scott Kneller in men’s Skier X. ”

Scott Kneller became the first Australian to win a Skier X World Cup in Italy in December this season.  While he didn’t make it to podium at the X Games he has high hopes in Deer Valley.

“There are a few guys that are skiing really well at the moment namely Chris Delbosco of Canada and John Teller of USA but  it is anyones race on the day though” said Scott when I asked him his game plan before training today.

“We have two days of training so I’m going to really work on getting my starts dialed as it defenitely helps being out in front and I’m hoping this start is technical so its not just a power test. From what I hear though the track is really good so if I do get caught behind there will be many opportunities to pass.”

It’s an exciting time for Skier X in Australia as national funding has shifted from the once under funded (now not funded) Alpine Racing to Skier X.

“I think it’s a real shame” said Scott about the funding cuts.  “However I understand their line of thinking. They want to see medals and skier cross has already proven to be a sport in which Australians can excell and thats why there has been a reallocation of funding.”

So who is Scott’s hot tip for podium?  “I’m really looking forward to seeing slopestyle as I’m sure Russ is going to take gold!”

Everyone’s eyes are on ‘our Russ Henshaw’ after he took Silver at the X Games slopestyle in Aspen.  Russ took quite a tumble in the Big Air and has been feeling the pain ever since.

“I have to man up” said Russ about his battered and bruised body which will compete in slopestyle qualifiers on Thursday.  It certainly hasn’t tarnished his medal high as he says “I don’t think I’ll ever come down from cloud nine.”

If Slopestyle makes it into the Winter Olympics schedule in 2012 that cloud may be about to get higher.

Checkout the complete event schedule as the athletes take to the slopes from Feb 2 – 5.

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