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Whistler hosts the planet: Winners and losers at the World Cup



Forget first, second and third. Though the podium winners were feted in grand style last week during the much-anticipated return of the Great White Circus to Whistler, the athletes weren’t the only ones whose fates were being played out on the slopes above Creekside. For with the Winter Games only two years away – and this event the only international test of the venues – much more was at stake for organizers, sponsors and volunteers than just getting another World Cup event off. Here, in my view, are some of the winners and losers from last week.

The sun was shining The Weasel Workers did their thing. And everyone finally got to see what high performance ski racing in Whistler is all about. For the first time since Rob Boyd won back in 1989, Whistler Mountain greeted the world’s best speedsters with bluebird skies, a hard track and racing conditions that had everybody raving. “Somehow, in some way, Dave Murray surely had a hand in this,” Whistler-Blackcomb event director Peter Young confided to me. “When I woke up this morning, I just had to send a little thanks his way...”

Perhaps it’s fitting then that I give my first winner’s wreath to the race committee.

“This was a true test of our abilities,” World Cup frontrunner Didier Cuche told me in the soft inflections of his Swiss French after the first day of racing. “The course is one of the best super G tracks on the circuit – very technical with many transitions and changes in rhythm. It’s very easy to lose time on this course. You have to stay focused all the way down. I think this is an outstanding Olympic track.”

And then he laughed. “The last time I came here – in 1998 – the weather was so bad I didn’t even pull my race skis out of the bag,” he said. “It’s great fun to finally see what this place has to offer.”

His praise was echoed the next day by his teammate, Nadia Styger, the women’s downhill champ. “When I first inspected the course,” said the eight-year World Cup veteran, “I thought it had been set too round and too slow. But today, with a hard track it was a totally different matter. You can’t ever relax on this run — you’re being tested all the time. This is definitely one of the best women’s downhill courses in the world!”

Whistler/Blackcomb also won big last week. A jubilant Hugh Smythe paced the VIP section during the super G race, glad-handing everybody in sight. “Is this fantastic or what?” he told me with a huge grin splashed across his face. “With this one event, we have a chance to completely upgrade our profile in Europe.”