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    Saturday, November 29, 1997

    Drouin halfpipe crazy

    By LISA WILSON -- Calgary Sun
      When Candice Drouin traded in her skis for a snowboard five years ago, she assumed her childhood dream of competing at the Olympic Games would never blossom.
     But with the introduction of snowboarding at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, the former ski racer may just make that dream a reality.
     "I just used to snowboard for fun," recalls Drouin, 21. "Then I made the national team and now with the Olympics ... it's pretty exciting."
     She's one of Canada's top female riders. The 1997 national slalom champion won a bronze in the freestyle (halfpipe) and was fifth in the giant slalom two seasons ago at a World Cup in Japan.
     Leading up to the Olympics, the Banff native has had a tough time deciding which of the two Olympic events would get her attention.
     "At the beginning of the summer I decided to focus on racing, but by the end of the summer I changed my position," she said. "I've decided to apply my energies to freestyle ... it's more feasible."
     More feasible because Canada has already qualified for four places on the Olympic freestyle roster and none in GS.
     It's going to be a tough ride for Olympic hopefuls. About 20 to 30 women will compete for the four positions. A series of six Olympic Trials begin on Dec. 8 at Whistler.
     Three selection races are scheduled at Canada Olympic Park, Jan. 5, 7, 10.
     Despite her decision to stick to freestyle, Drouin can't help leaving the door open just a crack.
     "I still haven't given up on racing," says the goofy-foot (left foot front) rider.
     Truth be known, Drouin's true passion is boardercross. The rough and tumble event, where almost anything goes, features six riders battling it out down a course dotted with jumps and -- more often than not -- bodies. Last person standing at the finish is declared the winner.
     "It's so much fun," beams the affable Drouin. "I'm a hybrid, freestyler and racer."
     With Olympic medals, prize money and sponsorship dollars on the line, a whole new level of professionalism has taken over snowboarding.
     Once the bad boy of the slopes, snowboarding has gone legit.
     "Since it became an Olympic event, freestylers have changed their whole lives," explains the 5-ft. 8-in. athlete, sponsored by Simms, Briko, Lake Louise Ski Area and Rude Boys.
     "People aren't putting up with drinking and smoking anymore. They're lifting weights, thinking about nutrition and working hard."
     In addition to on-snow training, her program is supplemented with weights, running and biking. A full-time athlete, she works on her "air-aware" by practising flips and somersaults on a trampoline.
     Pulling off a successful big air rodeo flip (backward, corkscrew) or McTwist (forward, sideways flip) requires a good sense of body awareness and a great deal of nerves.
     "I've had a few good wipeouts," smiles Drouin, who wears a helmet during her halfpipe routine.
     With every season, comes new moves to master. If you do a chicken salad, when everyone else is McTwisting, you're sure to lose some cool points.
     "You have to stay current, have a good array of tricks and have good amplitude," she explains.
     Drouin has a set of tricks she performs during each routine, but constantly mixes it up depending on the halfpipe and the judges.
     "You have to decide what the judges want to see," she says.
     Drouin hopes they'll like what she does and reward her with a trip to the Olympic Games.