PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - Elena Gaskell was only six when she tackled freestyle skiing for the first time.
Seven years later, she's a Canada Winter Games champion.
The 13-year-old from Vernon, B.C. was the youngest of 23 female skiers in Saturday's slopestyle skiing event at Tabor Mountain Ski Resort and nailed down the top two runs in the eight-skier final to earn the first gold medal of the Winter Games.
"It's really exciting, I'm so proud to represent B.C. and just want to thank my parents and all the volunteers and all the helpers," said Gaskell. "Like a lot of the girls here I've been training since I was six, just going around hitting jumps and little boxes. I just a wanted to have fun and try my best and hopefully I would be able to perform and get on the podium."
Freestyle B.C. team manager Wade Garrod has been monitoring Gaskell's progress and he's convinced there's no limit to her potential as one of Canada's up-and-coming stars.
"She's a bit of a phenomenon— she started skiing in the Bumps and Jumps program when she was like seven years old and did two or three years there and now she skis with the boys and tries to keep up to them. She has a really competitive, mature kind of nature for her age."
Gaskell took a fall in a competition a couple weeks ago at Whistler and suffered a bit of whiplash and was wearing a neck brace last week as a precaution, but showed no ill effects and fearlessly set the bar Saturday with her stylish tricks.
Her score of 77.7 on the first of two final runs pushed her over the top. Rachael Karker of Halton Hills, Ont. (61.7) and Sofiane Gagnon of Whistler, B.C. (61.2) won silver and bronze.
B.C. dominated the slopestyle event, winning four of six medals to take the early lead in the medal standings.
Teal Harle of Whistler, 18, won gold over 28 other male slopestyle skiers with a score of 90.0, Patrick Dew of Vernon claimed silver (82.2) and Lucas Lambert of Horseshoe Valley, Ont., captured bronze (61.2).
"The score is out of 100 and 90 is one of my best runs for sure, it was really fun," said Harle. "I was just happy to make it to the bottom and land all the tricks. I just tried to step it up and make everything cleaner and land everything better and I guess it worked.
"It's awesome to start off the Games with B.C. on gold. I'm really stoked (about the four B.C. medals). I knew we could do it, we just had to pull it off."
Freestyle skiing resumes Sunday with the big air event.