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O'Dine qualifies 17th, top Canadian in World Cup snowboard cross in Italy

Ski crosser Gairns testing the slopes this weekend in Sweden
Meryeta O'Dine of Prince George was 17th Saturday in a World Cup snowboard cross race in Chiesa In Valmalenco, Italy.

Canada’s Eliot Grondin was the top qualifier Friday in the men’s World Cup snowboard cross event in Chiesa In Valmalenco, Italy.

The 19-year-old from Ste-Marie, Que., topped the qualification round, finishing ahead of Merlin Surget of France and Omar Visintin of Italy and American Jake Vedder.

In other Canadian results, Kevin Hill of Vernon was 46th, Liam Moffatt of Truro, N.S., was 57th, Evan Bichon of Prince George was 63rd and Colby Graham of Prince George was 65th.

Bichon, 22, and Graham, 19th each posted four top-10 results in 2020 on the Nor-Am circuit.

Meryeta O’Dine of Prince George was the top Canadian in the women’s qualifying event, placing 17th.

The pandemic and poor snow conditions in Europe have delayed the start of the World Cup season. It was the first race for O’Dine, 23, since January 2020, when she posted two 10th-place finishes at Big White, near Kelowna.

Italian Raffaella Brutto set the pace in Friday’s qualifying round, followed by Eva Samkova of Czech Republic, Belle Brockhoff of Austria and Faye Gulini of the United States.

In other Canadian results, Audrey McMainan of Sainte-Ambrose-de-Kildare, Que. Was 22nd; Carle Brenneman of Comox was 27th; Zoe Bergermann of Erin, Ont., was 29th; 42. Justinen Kennedy of Whistler was 42nd and Hailey Moyer of King City, Ont. Was 43rd.

The men’s and women’s races are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.

Meanwhile, on the World Cup ski circuit, Tiana Gairns of Prince George will be back on the slopes on Idre Fjall, Sweden on Saturday. Gairns, 23, posted a 13th-place finish Wednesday on the same course. Her most recent race result before that was 16th on Dec. 16 in Arosa, Switzerland.

Marielle Thompson of Whistler is one of the medal favourites for the races Saturday and Sunday in Sweden. She won silver on Wednesday, finishing second to Swiss skier Fanny Smith. Courtney Hoffos of Calgary was ninth in that race, while Zoe Chore of Cranbrook tied with Gairns in 13thplace.

B.C. boy Reece Howden of Cultis Lake is also a podium favourite this weekend in Sweden, after he won gold and silver Dec. 20-21 at World Cup races in Val Thorens, France. Howden placed fifth in Wednesday’s race, won by Bastien Midol of France.