The women’s headline from Whistler on Saturday could have read exactly like the men’s. Heidi Widmer (AWCA) took gold in the Haywood NorAm freestyle sprint, leading an Alberta World Cup Academy sweep of the top three spots on the podium. Her brother Phil accomplished the same feat only minutes after the completion of the women’s A-final.
“That was super special, for sure,” said Widmer of winning the same day as her brother. “It’s really great watching him do well.”
Joining Widmer on the podium were her teammates Alysson Marshall in second and Marlis Kromm in third.
AWCA Race Director Mike Cavaliere was understandably pleased with his team cleaning up in both the men’s and women’s races.
“We’re pretty happy…it was a really good day,” he said.
Widmer set out for the sprints with a straightforward strateg: lead from the start to avoid getting caught in the shuffle.
“For the heats, I figured there would be only one good line on the track,” said Widmer. “Passing was quite a hassle, so I wanted to control the pace.”
New snow on Friday night and Saturday morning made the sprint course at Whistler Olympic Park slow and soft. The lesser-used passing lanes became an added challenge to contend with, and factored into the race strategy.
Besides notching her first win of the winter and leading her team to a perfect day, Widmer had another reason to celebrate her result. She automatically qualified for Canada’s World U23 Championship team.
“It’s a huge relief,” said Widmer.
Marshall had been hoping to break her recent silver-meal streak with a win on Saturday, but was nonetheless complimentary of her teammate’s performance.
“Heidi skied really well today and deserved the win,” said Marshall.
Marshall said she fought against tired legs in the qualifier, and didn’t start feeling fast until she had to fight for second place in her semifinal.
The A-final, she said, was rough. Marshall narrowly avoided a crash with Andrea Dupont (Rocky Mountain Racers), who ended up in fifth. Coming into the stadium, Marshall was in third.
“I had to wait until the final stretch to pass Marlis [Kromm], as there was only lane that was skied in,” she said. “I was able to go around Marlis on the last corner but I didn’t have enough gas to catch Heidi.”
For Kromm, a bronze-medal finish represented her first time on the podium in the senior women’s category. Like her competitors, she said the snowy conditions were an added challenge to contend with.
“It was a different race that I’d imagined with the new snow,” she said. “I had to change my tactics, and think on the spot about changing my strategy.
Kromm characterized the course as “basically, a one-lane highway” as a result of the new snow, which gave the heats an added scramble for the best position on the fastest lane.
“There was definitely contact out there,” she said. “It led to a lot of stepping on poles and bumping to get the best spot. It’s important to keep that in mind and know you’ll get pushed around a bit, and be ready for it.”
The women compete in a 10 k classic on Sunday to conclude the three-event, four-day set of races in Whistler.
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Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.