O'Dine advances at World Cup snowboardcross quaifying

It was a bittersweet day for Canadians on the World Cup snowboardcross slopes at Big White.

Meryeta O'Dine, Eliot Grondin and Kevin White did everything they set out to do in Friday's qualifying round and had reason to smile.

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O'Dine, a 22-year-old Prince George native and four-year World Cup veteran put down a solid eighth-place time on the foggy mountain slopes to qualify for Saturday's individual race.

Only the 16 fastest women out of a field of 26 advanced. Hometown favourite Tess Critchlow of Kelowna, who finished 17th, and Zoe Bergermann of Erin, Ont., who was 18th, just missed the cut.

Grondin, of Sainte-Marie, Que., finished 10th and Kevin Hill of Vernon was 23rd in the men's qualifying round. The top 32 men advanced to Saturday's race.

It was a disappointing day for the two other Prince George racers vying for a spot in the race order Saturday. Evan Bichon, 21, placed 38th and 18-year-old Colby Graham also failed to advance after placing 47th in field of 50 racers.

"After the first run I was sitting in 34th, right on the bubble," said Bichon. "The track sped up and so did my second run, but everybody else's time sped up, too, and unfortunately they bumped me back down.

"I'm proud of how I was riding, I felt really strong but everybody was dealing with the ice fog today. It definitely made visibility tough and it made the tracks and the bumps in the snow invisible. The fog is like a cloud so every 20 seconds you're wiping your goggles so you can see again."

Bichon was 28th in his second run.

"The winners are the ones who could put down the fastest line and keep that speed in the low visibility and bumpy track," Bichon said. "I'm super-excited for Meryeta. The Canadians that got through will hopefully get us some hardware tomorrow."

Poor visibility also made it difficult for the pro-Canadian crowd, most of which was gathered at the bottom of the hill, where they could watch the borders come down the hill on a jumbo screen.

Graham misread the course in a couple of places and that robbed him of his speed. He ended up 43rd in the first run and 34th in his second run.

"During training it felt decent and in the first run I had a couple small bobbles and a big mistake in (the fifth berm) and I came around and slid out enough to lose my speed, and I wasn't as fast as I hoped for," said Graham.

"It was definitely a low-vis day. You couldn't see the lines or the bumps really. The second ran was feeling a lot faster and then going into (the sixth berm) I took my normal line and hit some ruts and I folded at the waist and lost a lot of speed there."

Europeans dominated the qualifying time trial sessions in both genders.

Nelly Moenne Locoz of France had the top women's time, completing the course in 1:16.86, followed by second-pace Rafaella Brutto of Italy (+0.12) and third-place Michala Moioli of Italy (+0.46). Topping the men's field were Lucas Eguibar of Spain, who clocked 1:13.57. Martin Noerl of Germany (0.02) and Matteo Menconi of Italy (+0.21) were right on Eguibar's heels.

In other Canadian results, Carle Brenneman of Comox was 21st, Audrey McManiman of Sainte-Ambrose-de-Kildare, Que., was 22nd and Haili Moyer of King City, Ont., was 26th

Liam Mofatt of Truro, N.S., was 39th and Anthony Gervais-Marcoux of Sainte-Apollinaire, Que., was 43rd.

In the wake of the cancellation of World Cup races in Feldberg, Germany, Feb 1-2, due to a lack of snow, the team event scheduled for Sunday at Big White has been changed to an individual race. There will be no qualifying time trials. Instead it will be all elimination heats and only the top two in each heat will advance to the next round.

That change gives Bichon and Graham another shot at racing on Canadian snow with their families and friends watching.

"It'll probably be heats of two and heats of three at first and the first heat we'll call the qualification heat," said Graham. "It's another chance and I'll take what I can get." I like racing heats."

The individual races will be televised and streamed live on CBC beginning at noon each day.

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