Penticton’s Alec Henderson has high hopes and prospects for his freestyle skiing career – Penticton News

Mark Brett/Local Journalism Initiative, Penticton Herald – | History: 394160

Long considered a mecca for mogul skiers, Apex Mountain Resort has a new star on the horizon.

In fact, 19-year-old Alec Henderson from Penticton has already taken to the air against some of the best freestylers in the world.

Earlier this year, the Apex graduate cracked Canada’s coveted NextGen Big Air and Slopestyle team roster, which could earn him a spot at the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy.

The NextGen team is described by its head coach Gabriel Leclerc as the “bench players” of the national World Cup team.

The NextGenners replace World Cup national team athletes who are unable to compete in scheduled events.

“It’s tough for NextGen skiers because they have to perform (at Worlds) on demand if you want to get there,” Leclerc said in a phone interview from his Quebec City office this week. “You have to do it any day because you’re not sure you’ll get another World Cup spot that year, so you’re all in.

“We think Alec has that potential.”

His coaches are so confident in their rookie skier that they have already chosen him to compete in Stubai, Austria in the sixth edition of the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup from November 16-20 against the best of the best.

“It absolutely means the world to me, it’s really been a long journey and I’ve worked so hard and my family have invested so much in it, it’s almost surreal,” said Henderson, who clicked first. times on the slats at the age of two.

“Now I can focus more clearly on my participation in the Olympics, which would be amazing to represent Canada with my skiing and bring home the gold. That’s my ultimate goal.”

The Penticton athlete is the first skier from Western Canada to be part of this particular team in the last five years, a team generally dominated by athletes from Ontario and Quebec.

It was right after the 2022 Winter Olympics in February that Henderson had the opportunity to prove himself to NextGen coaches at the national selection camp in Whistler.

He was one of nine top skiers in the country to be invited and only one of four to earn a spot on the list.

“Alex was chosen – we had considered him a good prospect beforehand – because he has great fundamental skills,” Leclerc said. “After that we got to know him a bit better, his personality, such a good kid, his parents raised him well.

“He’s very respectful, just a genuine, super positive human being, just a good person to be around.”

According to the coach, given the number of trips, the proximity of the members and the level of competition, the ability to ski is only part of the equation that makes an athlete successful.

“It’s an individual sport, but it’s a team environment,” Leclerc said. “In sports or in any business, these are the people you work with and working with Alec is a pleasure.”

Growing up, Henderson excelled in both disciplines of the sport, moguls and slopestyle, having won over 50 medals by the age of 15, more than half of those golds.

But in 2019 it was decision time, after being offered places in both provincial teams he decided to go with his heart and chose to put all his efforts towards the freestyle genre. multidisciplinary.

“I love the styling aspect, everyone is a different skier and you can kind of find your own way of doing it, so that’s pretty awesome,” Henderson said.

His coach described the sport as, “Being able to ski well, slide on rails, jump, and overall be the best skier on the mountain. You have to do everything.

“These guys have to be someone who loves skiing, is partly adrenaline junkie and fearless.”

For Henderson, the cancellation of the 2020 competitive season proved to be a “blessing in disguise”, allowing him to hone his skills.

So in the 2021-22 season, he was ready to make a name for himself and did so in his first NorAm event, including winning a Canada Cup in big air and placing fifth in slopestyle.

He credits his success to his time at Apex and the skills he learned from his trainers, especially Kenni Kuroda.

The life lessons he learned there inspired him to obtain his coaching certificate in order to share his passion with the children of the region.

“It’s been a great experience for me to give back to the community by coaching young people and inspiring the next generation of freestyle skiers,” Henderson said. “I like to warm up the kids on the snow and have fun and if I can be part of it…”

A special evening is planned in support of Henderson on Thursday, Nov. 3 at the Highway 97 Brewery from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., which includes dinner, an auction and music.

Tickets are $20 and are available on Highway 97.

About Robert James

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