Vellner takes step toward 2014 Olympics

Jon Vellner isn’t one to put the cart before the horse.

Red Deer’s Jon Vellner qualified for the Canadian Freestyle Ski team this year.

Red Deer’s Jon Vellner qualified for the Canadian Freestyle Ski team this year.

Jon Vellner isn’t one to put the cart before the horse.

The 23-year-old native of Red Deer realizes he has a lot of work ahead of him before reaching his ultimate goal of competing for the Canadian Freestyle Ski team in the aerials competition at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Russia.

Vellner, who has only been competing in aerials since 2006, took a step in that direction this year, adding a pair of triple flips to his repertoire, which qualified him to compete for the national team at the World Cup level.

“Once you’re doing triples that’s the point where you’ve made it to the national team and competing at the World Cup level,” said Vellner, who is in Calgary to compete in a World Cup event this weekend.

“I competed in a couple of World Cup events last year in Canada and picked up a couple of FIS (Federation International Skiing) points, but this year I officially moved up.”

Vellner does a pair of triple back flips, one with a double twist and one with a triple twist. Both are done in a style called half-in which only Vellner and Swiss skier Thomas Lambert attempt.

“It’s different in that when I come into my jump I do a half twist on the first flip which leaves me looking back at the field. I do one more flip facing forward before finishing with the third flip,” explained Vellner, who realizes even that won’t be enough to get him on the podium at the World Cup level.

“The degree of difficulty isn’t there,” he said. “It’s enough to get me into the finals, but not reach the podium. I need to do at least four twists to take that next step up. That’s something I’ll work on after this season.

“But I’m not pushing it,” he added.

“I’m still not near my peak, which seems to be in your late 20s, and considering I’m in my first year at the World Cup level I have a long way to go.”

Vellner hasn’t been able to qualify for a World Cup final so far, but this weekend would be a perfect time to do it. If he can accumulate 215 points in his two jumps he would more than likely make the final and qualify for the world championships in Deer Valley, Utah.

“That’s a goal,” he said. “The 215 points mark would be a personal best for me, but then I’ve never had the degree of difficultly before to reach that number. Now I do with the new jumps.”

Vellner tried the new jumps in competition earlier this month in Mont Gabriel, Que., and crashed.

“I have to land them in competition, which is the big thing,” he said.

“Overall I’ve had a good season in training, but I’ve had a little bit of a nerve issues in competition and haven’t put it all together yet. But I’m hoping to fix that this weekend.”

Vellner should be used to competing at a high level as he competed internationally for the Red Deer Exelta Gymnastics Club on the trampoline and double-mini trampoline before switching to freestyle.

“That should help for sure,” he said. “But it will come. I’ll add the new twists this summer and take it from there.”

Vellner got into freestyle after considering joining the Cirque du Soleil.

“Bobby Watson was a friend of mine and he joined the Cirque and I was going to follow him. But I met (coach Nicolas Fontaine) and he got me into aerials. The Cirque would have been fun, but at the same time I enjoy where I am.”

Vellner competed for the national development team on the Nor Am circuit prior to this year.

“I still compete at the odd Nor Am event and there’s one in Calgary after this weekend, but hopefully I’ll be at the world championships.”

Following the world finals the Canadian team will compete in Russia and then will return to Quebec where Vellner spends his off season.

He lives and trained in Lac-Beauport, Que, which makes his return to Calgary this weekend as one of the highlights of the season.

“I’m looking forward to coming back,” he said. “It’s the only event in Western Canada.”

What Vellner would like to see is a little more media coverage for his sport.

“We don’t get a lot of press, but people do enjoy it when they come out,” he added.

Competition begins today with the men’s and women’s qualifying for moguls with the aerials qualifying on Friday — the men at 3 p.m. and women at 11:30 a.m. The moguls finals go Saturday at 11 a.m. and the aerials at 2 p.m.