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Blackcomb, B.C., Jan. 16, 2001--The 2001 World Freestyle Ski Championships return to North America for the first time since 1991 as they open Wednesday at Blackcomb Ski Area with the qualifying round for moguls. Defending world champion Ann Battelle (Steamboat Springs, CO) will be making her first start after a late preseason shoulder injury.

Head Coach Jeff Wintersteen reduced U.S. expectations to the basics: "We want to win," he said Tuesday night after the final teamleaders' meeting. "Ann's 100 percent healthy. She went to Mount Tremblant last weekend and skied the course, but decided not tocompete. She's 100 percent, though, and she's a big event performer, so we're looking for the best."

Battelle's gold medal in the 1999 World Championships means the U.S. Ski Team gets an extra spot in the women's event. Competingfor the U.S. along with Battelle will be Hannah Hardaway (Moultonborough, NH), who won the Gateway Freestyle Challenge Jan. 7 onthe 2002 Olympic venue at Utah's Deer Valley resort; Shannon Bahrke (Tahoe City, CA), Jillian Vogtli (Ellicotville, NY), and DonnaWeinbrecht (Killington, VT). In duals, it's expected to be Battelle (bronze medalist in '99), Vogtli, Bahrke and Hardaway.

Competing in the men's moguls will be Evan Dybvig (Tunbridge, VT), who has been second in the last two World Cup events; GarthHager (Bothell, WA), Toby Dawson (Vail, CO), and Alex Wilson (Buffalo, NY). In dual moguls, Dybvig will rest his aching knees and bereplaced by Dawson with Ryan Riley (Steamboat Springs, CO) joining the group.

In aerials, reigning world champ Eric Bergoust (Missoula, MT) will be joined by three Park City, Utah, skiers - World Cup leader JoePack (bronze medalist in '99), Brian Currutt and Jerry Grossi - plus Corey Hacker (Boston, NY). Emily Cook (Belmont, MA), who wasthird in the Gateway World Cup at Deer Valley, will be joined by Tracy Evans (Park City), Brenda Petzold (Andover, MA) and KellyHilliman (Tonawanda, NY).

The schedule:

Wednesday - moguls qualifier
Thursday - aerials qualifier
Friday - moguls
Saturday - aerials
Sunday - dual moguls

"We've shown in the World Cups this season we can take the top spot, we can be on the podium...and we want to carry that into theWorld Championships. We have that ability," Wintersteen said. "We also want to look forward to next season and the 2002 Olympics;this is one big step along that way."

The last time the freestyle World Championships were held in North America was 1991 in Lake Placid, N.Y., (when Wintersteencompeted in ballet, finishing ninth). U.S. skiers won six medals, including three gold medals.

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