Elena Gaskell of Vernon peforms a 720 Mute Grab in the big air competition at the Canada Winter Games Sunday in Prince George.

Elena Gaskell of Vernon peforms a 720 Mute Grab in the big air competition at the Canada Winter Games Sunday in Prince George.

Gaskell uses tricks for gold medals

Vernon freestyler Elena Gaskell is becoming a media darling at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George.

Morning Star Staff/Canada Winter Games

Vernon freestyler Elena Gaskell is becoming a media darling at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George.

Not only did the 13-year-old, VSS Grade 8 student win a pair of gold medals, but she conducted interviews in both English and French after striking gold in slopestyle skiing and big air.

Gaskell was the youngest of 23 female skiers in Saturday’s slopestyle skiing event at Tabor Mountain Ski Resort and nailed down the top two runs in the eight-skier final to earn the first gold medal of the Games.

There are 2,400 athletes, 1,000 coaches and officials, along with 4,500 volunteers involved.

Gaskell took a fall in a competition a few weeks ago at Whistler and suffered a bit of whiplash and was wearing a neck brace last week as a precaution, but went all out Saturday with her stylish tricks.

Her score of 77.7 on the first of two final runs pushed her over the top. Rachael Karker of Halton Hills, Ont. (61.7) and Sofiane Gagnon of Whistler, B.C. (61.2) took silver and bronze, respectfully.

Gaskell’s focus on her runs was to take a more difficult line in the rail section coming switch (backwards) onto the first feature and then slide the more difficult down flat down rail and then a 270 off the third rail.

For the jump section she came in switch to the first jump with a switch 180 to a 360 mute on the second jump and 720 mute on the third. Keys to success were high degree of difficulty, clean execution, amplitude and grabs.

B.C. dominated the slopestyle, claiming four of six medals to take the early lead in the medal standings. As of Tuesday, Quebec topped the table with five gold and 15 overall medals, one more than B.C. and Ontario.

Teal Harle of Whistler, 18, won gold over 28 other male slopestyle skiers with a score of 90.0, Patrick Dew of Vernon claimed silver (82.2) and Lucas Lambert of Horseshoe Valley, Ont., bagged bronze (61.2). Dew is in Grade 11 at the VSS High Performance program and is a member of the B.C. Park and Pipe Team.

Dew, met one of his personal goals when his silver medal resulted in Team B.C. taking first and second place in the men’s competition.

“We have been trying for a one-two finish on the podium so this is awesome,” said Dew. “The conditions were great and the snow was perfect. There was just the right amount of sun and the landing was soft enough so it didn’t hurt when you fell. I have to thank all of my coaches and friends who have supported me through everything, I couldn’t do it without them.”

Said Gaskell, after her big air victory Sunday: “I’m so proud and happy and I just feel so honoured. I just kept to the tricks I knew and I went big and got my grab and I was super clean. It was good. I was happy and ready to go.”

Freestyle B.C. team manager Wade Garrod, of Vernon, says Gaskell has major potential.

“She’s a bit of a phenomenon — she started skiing in the Bumps and Jumps program when she was like seven years old and did two or three years there and now she skis with the boys and tries to keep up to them,” Garrod told reporters. “She has a really competitive, mature kind of nature for her age.”

Gaskell, who skis for Silver Star, won the B.C. Freestyle Championship last April at Mt. Washington in Courtenay with an inner-ear dizzying combination of a 720 to a Misty 540, followed by a 360.

Gaskell has been training with the B.C. Park and Pipe Developmental team with the B.C. Freestyle Ski Association for a year. This allows her to work with new coaches while practising jumps on snow, water ramps and trampolines.

“She is an extremely determined athlete. She goes off more jumps than anyone at practice and she has a game plan for each event,” said Evan Wilcox, head coach of the B.C. Developmental Freestyle Ski team. “That is something that separates herself from every other kid her age.”

Gaskell, who carries sponsorship from Smith Optics, K2 Skis, O’Neill Clothing, Silver Star Mountain Resort and Sun Valley Source for Sports, will also shoot for a podium in moguls.

In ringette, Team B.C. defeated Prince Edward Island 7-4 and lost 4-3 to Nova Scotia. Erin Banning of Vernon had an assist in the win, while Vernon’s Teigan Moore earned a helper in the loss.

Megan Weatherill and Melaine Wakutz, both of Vernon, and Brooklyn Hay, of Grindrod, are also playing for B.C.

Gavin Donald is in alpine skiing, Hannah Mehain in nordic skiing and Sydney Hofer in curling.