A St. Albert skier helped Canada swoop within inches of a bronze medal last weekend at the junior world ski championships in France.
St. Albert resident Kendra Giesbrecht, 18, was one of the hundreds of alpine skiers in the Porte du Soleil region of France last Jan. 27-Feb. 3 for the 2024 FIS Junior World Ski Championships. The event saw athletes from 54 nations compete in six disciplines for medals.
This competition is the big event where young alpine skiers can test themselves against the best skiers in their age category, and is often used as a measure of a nation’s overall ability in the sport, said Luke Patterson, Giesbrecht’s coach.
“It’s a great testament to (Giesbrecht’s) ability and work ethic.”
Giesbrecht said she was very excited to learn last month that she had been picked to join Team Canada at this event, as there were many other skiers her age that qualified for the team.
“It was unexpected.”
Unlike other athletes on dedicated national teams, Giesbrecht and her teammates had just two weeks of practice in Italy last month to come together as a group, Patterson said. He said Giesbrecht did an excellent job of fitting in.
Giesbrecht said Porte du Soleil itself was beautiful.
“The size of the resort was huge. You turn around and there’s a whole other mountain … You could drive 20 minutes and still be in the same resort.”
Giesbrecht said she was one of seven people on Team Canada. This was her first time at the junior worlds.
“It was really cool to race against people my age and the best juniors in the world,” she said.
Giesbrecht said she fell and didn’t finish her second run in the women’s team combined event alongside Anne-Catherine Theberge. She placed 25th in the slalom (where you ski downhill between poles or gates) with a total time of 1:29.65 and 38th in the giant slalom (the slalom with bigger turns) with a 2:09.12.
“I could have skied better, but it was still a solid run,” she said of these events.
Giesbrecht said her team came within a hair’s breadth of the podium in the mixed team parallel event, which saw Team Canada competing against Team USA for the bronze. (The event sees pairs of skiers races on identical tracks, with the first team to win three races advancing.) Canada came into the match with a severe handicap as teammate Estelle Martin was unable to race due to a torn knee ligament.
“We were a team of three against a team of four,” she said, which meant Team USA effectively got a free point (as one of their skiers got a bye).
Giesbrecht said Canada did extremely well but lost when teammate Kyle Blandford fell in the last race. Still, the team was “super stoked” that it had made it as far as they did.
Patterson said it was awesome to see Giesbrecht win three of her four head-to-head races in this event, and said she should be proud of her efforts.
“She’s going to go back (to this tournament) next year better and stronger,” he predicted.
Giesbrecht said she was taking a few weeks off in St. Albert before heading to the North American alpine championships in Ontario.
Visit tinyurl.com/5n7uefc4 for full results of the championships.