MONT-TREMBLANT, Que. – Breathe a sigh of relief, Kelly VanderBeek; the custom helmet you designed for Canmore’s Britt Richardson works.
Following a wipeout mid-way down the hill, Richardson slid to a stop and then waved to the thousands watching at the finish line that she was OK at Sunday’s (Dec. 3) world cup giant slalom race.
#Canmore’s Britt Richardson waves that she’s OK after crashing on the 1st run of the giant slalom at the world cup in Mont Tremblant. A day earlier, she had a PB, placing 15th in GS. pic.twitter.com/QD2ULS64Qm— Jordan Small (@jordiesmall) December 3, 2023
The crash ended the top ski prospect’s day, and concluded her world cup debut on home soil at Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, but the DNF could hardly dampen the impressive week for Richardson, which was capped off with a personal best 15th place on Saturday (Dec. 2).
“The crowd there was pretty wild,” said Richardson, 20. “I could hear them from the start gate and as soon as I came through the finish. It was just crazy. There were so many people there. It was really cool to feel the energy from the Canadian fans and have my parents there and my brother there and lots of close friends. It was a really good experience.”
In Europe, Canadian skiers are more accustomed to flying under the radar in comparison to the star power attraction of their big ski nation counterparts. However, the Canucks were given a heroes welcome in Mont Tremblant for the first world cup races there in four decades.
With more eyes on them came more pressure, said Richardson, but the young gun didn’t change her game plan and attacked the “tricky” course aggressively, something the 20-year-old is committed to this season.
“My approach is to give it 100 per cent and not leave anything behind,” said Richardson. “I push out the start gate and just attack the whole course all the way through the finish and sometimes mistakes or crashes come along with that and that’s just how it goes.”
With the No. 31 bib, Richardson shot up to 12th spot after the first run of Saturday’s GS (1:08.62), when she was nipping at the heels of ski stars like USA’s Mikaela Shiffrin and Italy’s Sofia Goggia.
The impressive outing set the stage later that day for the Canmore skier to throw down another great effort in the second run, with a time of 1:09.43 – just a little faster than teammate and world cup medallist Valerie Grenier, who finished eighth.
The runs weren’t without mistakes, said Richardson, but the young athlete is beginning to see where she stacks up against the world’s best technical skiers.
“To know that my normal skiing, even if it’s not a perfect run, is in the top 15, that for sure gives me confidence going forward into the season,” she said.
The PB relieved some of the pressure off Richardson heading into day two. She again had bib No. 31.
On the new course were some tricky parts, said Richardson, specifically areas with rolls, where a skier can catch some unexpected air. The local skier wasn’t totally sure what happened when she crashed, but she said the course had felt normal leading up to that point.
On both days, visibility was an issue in certain areas due to snowfall and fog.
“I could not see anything,” said Shiffrin, who had two bronze medals over the weekend, in a press release. “But, actually, it was still fun to ski in a way, sometimes a little bit wild. Tough conditions but a good fight.”
Grenier finished as the top Canadian in sixth.
Cassidy Gray of Invermere, B.C. finished 24th in both races.
With her body intact after the crash, the grind continues for Richardson and Team Canada who were on a plane and off to Europe Sunday evening.
This season, Richardson is wearing a custom-designed helmet made by one of her idols and former ski racer Kelly VanderBeek. Canmore-inspired, the design has Three Sisters, Canmore’s most iconic three-peak mountain, which smoothly transitions into the Maple Leaf, with room for sponsor stickers. The helmet’s colours include red, white and Richardson’s favourite shade of blue, with black outlines.
Over the weekend in Mont-Tremblant, Italy’s Federica Brigone made history after breaking three records in Quebec, including becoming the oldest woman to win a world cup GS event at 33 years old. She also holds the distinct title of most winningest Italian female skier with 23 world cup victories and the most GS medals in Italian history with 32.