In many ways, Langley resident Eddie Hicks had a freestyle skiing season to forget.
But after a couple decent placings in Are, Sweden, the 2011 NorAm Tour champion was feeling better about his health, and more capable of skiing at maximum capacity.
An event in Sweden left Canada and America extremely close in the Nations Cup rankings for moguls.
"After a long season we were only separated by a few points," explained Hicks, who turns 24 today (April 10).
When the draw was mapped out, all of Hicks' teammates were in the top half of the brackets, "full of Canadians and foreigners, while I was in the bottom half with nothing but Americans," Hicks said.
"This draw gave me a little extra fire to go out and try to knock out the American skiers and pick up my team," Hicks said.
He ended up eliminating two Americans (Bradley Wilson and Jeremy Cota, who Hicks also eliminated at World Cup finals last year) before falling to Patrick Deneen in the semifinals.
"History really did seem to be about to repeat itself until Pat avenged the loss he suffered at my hands last year in Norway and sent me to the small final for the bronze medal - the same place I found myself at the previous World Cup finals in Norway," Hicks said.
This time, Hicks faced his teammate Marc-Antoine Gagnon.
"I definitely felt more optimistic about this duel than I did last year when I faced off against [2010 Olympic gold medalist] Alex Bilodeau in the bronze medal duel," Hicks said. "This is no discredit to Marc, he's a tremendous skier, but Alex is Olympic champion."
Unfortunately for Hicks, after a lengthy delay and fresh snow falling on a slushy course, the top jump was extremely sticky and when his skis hit it, Hicks practically stopped in his tracks.
"I under-rotated- and fell on my side," he said. "Fortunately I didn't damage anything other than my pride and my chances of a podium. It was great to see Marc get his first podium of the year, though."
"After a long season, to finally put myself in a position to stand on the podium and have something that feels totally out of my control take me out of the race is pretty frustrating," Hicks added.
"But I'm confident that next season I'll be able to put myself in a position to be on the podium on a regular basis, and that when I do, I'll be able to pull the trigger and get the job done."
Hicks is taking this month off before summer training begins in May.
. . .
Hicks' plan on standing on a World Cup podium, after fourth and fifth finishes near the end of last year, didn't quite work out as he had hoped.
At the first event of this year he developed some acute back pain and it has persisted ever since.
It has been tremendously frustrating dealing with an injury "whose source is unclear and timetable for recovery is vague," he said. Hicks decided to decline an invitation to compete at a Europa Cup event in Sochi, Russia as part of preparation for the 2014 Olympic Games.
Instead, he chose to focus on taking time to heal and hopefully be able to ski close to 100 per cent for the last events of the season in Europe.
There were some positives to take away from the season.
Hicks still had a trio of top ten finishes and was ranked 13th in the World Cup Grand Prix rankings.
"At this time last year I was ranked 17th in the Grand Prix rankings and was enjoying an injury free season," he said. "Few are the athletes who enjoy an adversity-free path to the top of their sports and looking at things in the long term, if something like this has to happen, it's much better that it happen during a non-Olympic qualifying, non-world championships year."
Hicks said he hopes to put his injury problems behind him and was looking forward to the six months of rigorous off-season training that lies ahead, to be ready to compete and reach his potential in the 2013 season.
Also on a more positive note for Hicks, the Langley-based firm, Sunrise Farms, has emerged as a keysponsor as he looks towards the Olympics in 2014.
"Training and competing is only one side of being an athlete in Canada and without the financial support given to athletes from Canadian firms such as Sunrise, we would simply not be able to attain our goals of success on the international stage," Hicks said. "In addition to their financial support, they're genuinely interested in my journey and progress following the results of every race. So I am very excited to have their support moving towards Sochi."