Canadian halfpipe athletes push their limits with Cirque du Soleil training

04 November 2015 10:38
Fun time on the Russian Swing
Fun time on the Russian Swing -
Canadian Freestyle Ski Association

Some of Canada’s top halfpipe athletes had the unique and exciting opportunity to participate in two training camps with Cirque du Soleil this summer in Quebec.

The first camp was held at the National Circus School in Montreal featuring Mike Riddle and Noah Bowman. The second, which saw the addition of Cassie Sharpe, Kris Atkinson and Brendan Mackay, took place on the St. Lawrence River.

This partnership came about through a mutual contact with RedBull, and has proven to be highly successful and beneficial for both parties.

“I was pretty excited to work with them,” said halfpipe coach, Trennon Paynter. “I’ve seen some cirque shows in the past and have always been super impressed with the talent of their artists and the creativity behind their acts.”

“I have a desire to integrate a whole new acrobatic style to our environment,” explained Cirque’s coaching and performance director, Richard LePage. “In our shows we have the classic acrobatics from gymnastics and trampoline. For us we look at the off axis style that the halfpipe team does because of its value. It’s very exciting.”

The halfpipe athletes adjusted nicely to the unfamiliar acrobatic equipment they were working with. The two main apparatuses used were the Russian swing, a swinging structure that allows the athletes to propel themselves high in the air, and “the blob” at the second camp, which is a floating structure that launches the athletes into the water.

“The Cirque coaches were great with the athletes and taught them how to use the Russian swing,” said Paynter. “It’s a complex operation that involves a lot of concentration and timing, so having instruction from some of the best teachers in the discipline definitely helped the team progress through the learning curve.”

“The adaptability of the freestyle athletes is super impressive,” said LePage. Classic acrobats know their tricks before they go in the air. Halfpipe athletes may have to adapt based on their run. They did in five days what trampolinists learn in three months.”

This opportunity provided a nice change of pace for the skiers who train vigorously throughout the winter. The Cirque training camps allowed them to work on some new skills and tricks in a different setting from what they are used to.

“It’s difficult to find a Halfpipe year round and sport specific training alternatives, so this has been an ideal opportunity for our athletes to get outside of their comfort zone and further develop their skills,” explained CFSA High Performance Director, David Mirota. “Especially for veteran athletes who have been training on trampoline and in the gym for many years, this can be refreshing!”

“I learned to keep my mind open for cool opportunities,” said Olympic silver medallist, Mike Riddle. “There are so many different aspects of acrobatics. Really, there are tricks that haven’t been done yet in halfpipe. You never really know what can come of it.”

With the success of the recent training camps, both parties hope to continue working together, as they have a great deal to learn from one another. This could be the beginning of some exciting new opportunities in the future.

“We hope it’s just the beginning,” said LePage. “We want to work more with the halfpipe team. We’re a Canadian company too so it’s exciting to work with them. We hope to find other opportunities to train together. I think it is a relationship where we can both benefit.”