Canada sending deep freestyle, snowboard teams to world championships

Fresh off a bucket-list win, Cassie Sharpe wants to lock down yet another.

The freestyle skier aims to carry the momentum from winning X Games halfpipe gold in Aspen, Colo., last week into the world championship starting Friday in Utah.

Also the winner of Olympic gold last year in Pyeongchang, South Korea, a world title would further solidify Sharpe’s prowess in the pipe.

“If there’s a checklist for a successful career, there’s definitely a place for a world championship win,” Sharpe told The Canadian Press.

The world freestyle and snowboard championships Feb. 1-10 in Utah will be the largest snow-sport gathering since Pyeongchang, where Canada’s 11 medals across both sports tied for the most with the United States.

Almost 60 Canadians will compete in Park City and Deer Valley and on Solitude Mountain.

Sharpe, from Comox, B.C., is among a handful coming off X Games success.

Snowboarder Laurie Blouin of Stoneham, Que., claimed big air gold in her X Games debut, while Regina’s Mark McMorris won slopestyle for his eighth career victory.

Freestyle big air makes its world championship debut in Utah. Alex Beaulieu-Marchand of Quebec City earned silver in Aspen. Rachael Karker of Erin, Ont., took bronze behind Sharpe in halfpipe.

Blouin is chasing a second straight world slopestyle title in Utah.

But the X Games and world championships require performance on demand in contrasting environments, according to Sharpe.

The X Games is a party-hard, made-for-television showcase that brings out athletes’ sponsors and agents, she said.

Sharpe feels both the weight and support of her Canadian federation behind her at world championships.

“They’re such different events,” she said. “X Games is like a party … whereas world champs feels more like an Olympic vibe.

“You’re serious and all the media is there and everybody cares about what everybody else is doing.

“It feels bigger. It feels more pressure, more stress, but it’s also just another contest. It’s important to keep everything in perspective too.”

Sharpe, 26, is skiing with a broken left thumb suffered while training in Calgary prior to the X Games.

A 94-point score on her third and final run through the Aspen pipe vaulted her over leader Kelly Sildaru of Estonia for the victory.

“X Games have been a bit of a challenge for me every year,” Sharpe said. “Somebody called me an underdog in an interview and that was super-weird for me.

“It’s definitely a bucket-list win and something I’m going to hold onto for a long time.”

She earned silver at the 2015 world championship in Krieschberg, Austria. It did not go well in the halfpipe two years later in Sierra Nevada, Spain.

“In Spain two years ago, I couldn’t even land a run,” she said. “I couldn’t make finals. A bit of a heartbreak.”

Canada’s Olympic champions in Utah include Calgary’s Brady Leman, Kelsey Serwa of Kelowna, B.C., and Marielle Thompson of North Vancouver in ski cross, as well as Mikael Kingsbury of Deux-Montagnes, Que., and Montreal’s Justine Dufour-Lapointe in moguls.

At the age of 43, snowboarder Jasey Jay Anderson of Mont Tremblant, Que., is chasing a fifth career world title in slalom.

Snowboarder Max Parrot, an Olympic silver medallist in slopestyle, will be missing from the Canadian contingent.

The 24-year-old from Cowansville, Que., is undergoing treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma, which is cancer of the lymphatic system.

2014 Olympic freestyle slopestyle champion Dara Howell of Huntsville, Ont., is also sidelined rehabilitating from surgery on her anterior cruciate ligament.

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