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Friday, May. 24, 2019
Sudbury skiers conquer the slopes at Calabogie
by Randy Pascal

To pilpher alpine ski terminology with which they are intimitely familiar, Danielle Huneault and Mathieu Beauchamp may have followed very different "lines", albeit both in search of the same end goal.

The athletes, both students at Collège Notre-Dame in Sudbury, capitalized on strong performances at the Provincial Ski Championships at Calabogie Peaks this past winter, earning a berth at the Eastern Canadian CamAm races at Mont Tremblant in April.

Like many who find their way into the racing end of alpine ski, both local products owe their start in the sport to family outings. "We used to go on trips to Boyne Mountains or Highlands, in Michigan," said Huneault.

"There's a ski camp, and at the end of the camp, we would all have a race. That's when I did my first unofficial ski race. I was about six, and I just fell in love with it." A mainstay with the Adanac Ski Club since the age of eight or so, Huneault speaks as though she is born to race.

"For me, it's about trying to beat a personal record, or having this great feeling about nailing a turn or something," she said. "There's a lot more adrenaline in ski racing. I was about twelve when I first remember thinking I wanted to keep doing this."

"I did my first provincial race and got to see everybody from Ontario racing together. That's when I knew I wanted to be with these people." Since that moment, progress has been incremental. Coming into the 2017-2018 season, Huneault had narrowed her focus to a very simple goal.

"I just really wanted to beat the people who had always beat me in the races," she said. "I was really determined to do my best. I did a few ski camps, and my skiing really improved like crazy. I probably shaved half a second off with those camps, and that's actually a lot."

Drilling down a little further, the 15 year-old specified the technical progress that most benefitted her this winter. "It is a little bit of everything, but I definitely had a lot smoother line. I would roll on to my edges instead of throwing them on to the sides, and my arms were a lot more controlled."

"That makes a big difference." Despite a so-so showing at the mid-winter races, Huneault remained confident as she prepared for her last chance to qualify for Quebec. "At mid-winters, I did not do very well, but at provincials, I rocked it," she said.

"I lowered my points and finished where I wanted to. I beat people I had lost to before." After competing in the U16 classification this past season, Huneault will make the jump to U21 next year, a very different environment, with some very different opponents.

"I'm spending a lot of time in the gym, there's a whole other fitness required for the next level," she said. That mantra could easily have been borrowed from Beauchamp. Heading into the 2017-2018 campaign, the eldest of two children in the family knew that his development hinged as much on the work to be done away from the slopes.

"Monsieur (Marc) Bonin (teacher at CND) helped me with a lot of my fitness, helped me get stronger," recalled Beauchamp. "In September and October, it was pure cardio. Then, I worked on getting stronger. You want to be heavier, but not fat, mostly muscle."

"The heavier you are, the faster you go - it's just more mass." To be sure, he's come a long way from his first introduction to alpine sports, heading somewhat in the same direction as Huneault.

"I started skiing when I was four, at Searchmont (in Sault Ste Marie)," said Beauchamp. "A few years later, my dad asked me if I wanted to do competitive skiing, since my sister was doing figure skating. I did it with Adanac, until I was 13, and then I went to Searchmont."

To be sure, the travel demands are far more ominous, making the constant winter treks along Highway 17 West. Thankfully, the rewards came quickly. "My major jump was when I was 13, when I got to the Sault," he said.

"I wasn't 100% sure what I was doing, but when I got to 14, my first year of U16 (competition), I knew exactly what I was doing. My coaches taught me a lot, how to fix the things I do wrong. I keep dropping my hip and keeping my hands down, which is something I haven't completely fixed. I'm still working on it."

Now at the point where he was a better athlete with a more technically sound approach, it was time for Beauchamp to address strategic improvement. "My line had to get better," he said. "When you come around a gate, you would think it's just a matter of coming straight at the gate, and then turning to the next one."

"This year, I learned that changing up your line makes a huge difference on how fast you are. You want to have that speed and momentum that you carry past the gate, that you're getting set for the next gate, rather than rushing each gate. You feel slower, but you're actually faster."

Coming off a very encouraging campaign, Beauchamp knows that he has hit something of a cross-roads, trying to balance his academic demands with his training schedule in the Sault, competing as a member of the Searchmont Ski Runners.

"It's very stressful when you miss a lot of school," he acknowledged. "I'm planning to do just entry level races in Quebec, and train at Searchmont. A lot depends on how much better I get next year."

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