The Canadian Alpine Ski Team limped through the first half of the season, then caught fire in late January with the men's speed team winning five medals in five weeks. The women's team, which has struggled with injuries and athletes retiring, joined the medal parade on Sunday with Erin Mielzynski of Ontario winning the slalom at Ofterschwang, Germany.
It was the best result in several generations of ski racers. Mielzynski is the first Canadian woman since Betsy Clifford to win a World Cup slalom race and that was in 1971. She's also the first Canadian woman to podium in slalom since Judy Crawford's bronze medal in 1973.
"This has been my dream for as long as I can remember," said Mielzynksi. "It was crazy coming fifth in the first run. That hasn't happened before. And then this? I can't describe it."
Mielzynski was able to share her good fortune, as teammate Marie-Michele Gagnon placed fifth on the day — tying her own personal best — and Anna Goodman placed 17th.
Mielzynski, who hails from Ontario and got her start in competitive water skiing, where she was second in the world in jumping in 2006, joined the national ski team in 2008. She has been building consistency over the years and during the World Championships last season she posted the fastest second run of the day to jump to 16th place overall. In the 2011-2012 she has been in the top 30 six times. Prior to winning, Mielzynski's previous best results were a pair of 13th place results.
"My goal for today was to race like I train every single day," she said. "I believed I could win but I didn't think about it during the race."
In the end, Mielzynski's second run was good enough to put her in front by just five one-hundredths of a second over Resi Stiegler of the U.S. Marlies Schild of Austria was third. In the end, just 0.07 seconds separated the top three.
Coach Hugues Ansermoz said it was an emotional day.
"It's huge emotion for the whole team," he said. "At the beginning of the year we had a planning meeting and set some goals. We had put a podium as a goal. It was a longshot, but we thought it was possible. We had put the podium down for Ofterschwang and when we came here I had forgotten about it! Then, last night, we said to the girls, 'tomorrow, just go for the win.'"
The slalom came on the third day of racing in Germany, with giant slalom races on Friday and Saturday. In the first GS the win went to Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany, followed by Tina Maze of Slovenia and Irene Curtoni of Italy. None of the Canadians qualified for a second run.
In the second GS, Rebensburg was first once again, followed by American Lindsey Vonn and Tina Maze. The only Canadian to crack the top 30 was Marie-Michele Gagnon in 14th.
The men's team didn't win any medals for the first time in more than a month, but were solid overall at Kvitfjell, Norway.
In the opening super G, Beat Feuz of Switzerland took the win, followed by Klaus Kroell of Austria and Kjetil Jansrud of Norway. The top Canadian was Erik Guay in ninth, while Jan Hudec was 13th. Benjamin Thomsen started 63rd and finished 40th.
In the downhill, Klaus Kroell picked up the win, followed by Norwegians Kjetil Jansrud and Aksel Lund Svindal. Benjamin Thomsen moved up to ninth, Erik Guay was 12th, Robbie Dixon a solid 19th after returning from injury and Jan Hudec 28th. Whistler's Morgan Pridy was 38th after starting 60th.
The final super G saw Norwegians win another two medals with Kjetil Jansrud first and Aksel Lund Svindal second. Beat Feuz was third.
Erik Guay was the top Canadian in ninth, with Jan Hudec in 19th and Jeffrey Frisch in 28th.