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April 02. 2014 11:05PM

Pelham freestyle skier reaches new heights


Pelham's Alec Carignan attained new heights in Park City, Utah, last Saturday, winning the USANA U.S. Freestyle Aerial Championships. (U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association)

In a span of three days, Alec Carignan’s mood swung from disappointment to exhilaration.

After failing to make the medal round at the FIS Freestyle Junior World Ski Championships March 27 in Valmalenco, Italy, the 18-year-old Pelham resident returned to the United States and won the national fly freestyle competition during the USANA U.S. Freestyle Aerial Championships Saturday at Deer Valley in Park City, Utah.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” Carignan said on Tuesday by phone from Park City. “To be honest, I didn’t expect to win it. There were a bunch of skiers doing much higher tricks, but because of injuries to some of them, and some tough conditions, I went with my best tricks and ended up winning it.”Carignan said his victory wiped away the frustration he brought back with him from Italy.

“Totally upset with myself in Italy,” he said. “I didn’t compete, didn’t meet my expectations. I know I was capable of doing better.”

That wasn’t the only motivation Carignan took into Saturday’s competition, which came on the 12th anniversary of the passing of his father.

“I had him on my mind that day, still carry a picture of him in my wallet,” Carignan said.

With the support of his mother, Cindy, Carignan followed the lead of another young freestyle skier from Pelham, Eric Loughran, and joined the development program at Waterville Valley Academy. There he came under the instruction of legendary coach Nick Preston, who told him he had the talent to pursue a career in freestyle skiing.

That accelerated a journey that has taken Carignan from Pelham to Waterville Valley to the Olympic Training Center at Lake Placid, N.Y., and now to Park City, where he currently lives and trains.

“If I was going to do this, I knew I had to move on my own to train 40 hours a week,” Carignan said. “I have no regrets. I miss my friends and family in Pelham, but now I couldn’t imagine going to a public school. Everything is awesome right now.”

Carignan credits Preston for giving him a chance.

“He’s a great coach who has turned out professional skiers in the past,” he said. “He put me on the right road. So far it’s paying off.”

Carignan said his ultimate goal is to compete in the 2018 Olympics in Korea.

“My hope is to be named to the national team this month,” said Carignan. “If I do, then I can compete in the World Cups and eventually work my way towards getting on the Olympic team.

“Winning the national title over the weekend is a huge first step for me. I couldn’t be happier right now.”


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