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Thursday, November 20, 2014

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Skier takes aim at Junior World Championship

Tags: Sports
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Andrew Solomon

When you’re an elite athlete, there really is no off-season.

You’d think that when the snow melts on all but the highest mountains, skiers would put away their equipment and perhaps relax and take up golf or maybe beach volleyball.

For Andrew Solomon, a member of the Ontario ski team, summer means dry-land training and staying in shape. This past off-season, he joined his teammates in Collingwood, a grand slalom away from Blue Mountain, to prepare himself for the upcoming season.

Last spring, Solomon, 19, was named to the Canadian Alpine Ski Team’s Canadian Prospect Team. A five-year veteran of the Ontario team, he earned the selection with a strong Prospects camp in Calgary, where he showcased his skills in the slalom, grand slalom and super grand slalom (Super G) events.

Last season, Solomon earned his first top 15 finish at a Nor-Am event in Aspen against the top skiers on the continent who are not already competing in the World Cup. He finished 15th in the super giant slalom (Super G), an alpine event in Aspen.

Along with the Downhill, the Super G is known for its speed. Skiers can reach 100 to 115 kilometres per hour in the Super G, Solomon said. Downhill skiers have been clocked anywhere from 110 to 135 km/h.

The giant slalom and slalom are more technical races in which skiers navigate through gates placed fairly close together, while the speed events place the gates farther apart, allowing for more speed.

Solomon, a native of Toronto, prefers the Super G. “I like the speed. I think it’s a good combination of technique and speed. That really gets me going.”

There are no tickets and no demerit points for exceeding speeds that would get you pulled over on the 401, but there is plenty of danger.

In 2008, during a Super G race at Georgian Peaks, Solomon tore the ACL in his left knee and had to undergo surgery to repair it. He missed the rest of the season but bounced back in 2009. He admits that on his return his confidence was a bit fragile, but he found his knee was as solid as before. He’s had no problems with it ever since, and last season, as part of the Ontario team, he participated in 65-70 races.

Solomon, who’s also a member of the Alpine Ski Club, expects a similarly busy schedule in 2011-12, with his goal to qualify for the junior world championship in Roccaraso, Italy. Only five or six guys are selected to compete and Solomon believes his best chance is in the Super G or downhill disciplines.

According to the International Ski Federation (FIS), the sport’s governing body, Solomon ranks 311th in the world in Super G. His first ranking during the 2007-08 season was 1,699th. He’s 268th in Downhill, up from 1,550th when he began competing.

In addition to the top 15 finish in the Aspen Nor-Am event, Solomon finished 15th at the National Championships in Nakiska, Alta. last March and he won a GMC Cup giant slalom at Georgian Peaks earlier that same month.

A graduate of Vaughan Road Academy, Solomon has been accepted into the science program at the University of Western Ontario, but he has put that on hold while he pursues his skiing dreams.

He started skiing at a remarkably young age – only two.

“I think I was skiing right after I was walking,” he said. “My parents are skiers. My mom’s family are big ski fans.

Even as a toddler, Solomon was pretty adept on snow. “My parents told me I wanted to go from the bunny hill to the big hill. I don’t remember, but I guess I enjoyed it.”

He said his goals this season are to improve his national ranking to the top three in all disciplines and his international rankings to top 15 in downhill, Super G and giant slalom, while also  competing in the world juniors.

Ultimately, he wants to race in the World Cup. “I just love the idea of being able to do something I love for a living,” he said.

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