In just four days last week Canadian Olympic hopefuls earned 28 medals, including five medals in ski cross at Cypress with a men’s podium sweep, as well as two gold medals in moguls and aerials. John Kucera ended Canada’s medal drought in alpine skiing with a gold medal in the world championship downhill, and various other medals in bobsleigh, skeleton, figure skating and speed skating.
Kucera saves the day for alpine ski team
With just four medals so far this season, and no hardware since early January, the Canadian Alpine Ski Team likely will not make its goal of 14 podiums this season, or even match last year’s tally of 12 medals. The women’s team, responsible for nine medals last season, has also been shut out so far although athletes have been consistently in the top-15.
The team needed a little good news at the FIS World Championships in Val d’Isere, France this past week, and Calgary’s John Kucera came through with the best performance of his career in the downhill.
Kucera was second out of the start hut Saturday, and sat in the hot seat for more than 80 agonizing minutes as 38 more racers came down the course. None could touch his time of two minutes 7.01 seconds, with Didier Cuche of Switzerland coming closes in 2:07.05, and Carlo Janka of Switzerland third in 2:06.18.
“It’s been a long road but it’s a dream come true,” said Kucera, 24. “This is not only a world championship medal but it’s my first medal in the downhill.”
It was also the first world championships gold medal won by a Canadian male in alpine skiing. Kucera, who specializes in the super G, said the course was rough and technical which favoured his style of skiing.
Kucera’s glow didn’t extend to any of his teammates. Jan Hudec posted the fastest speed — 132.02 km/h — but went off course after he lost an edge and injured his left knee. He missed most of last season with an injured right knee, and only returned to competition in November.
Erik Guay also crashed near the bottom, but was not injured.
“I risked it and was pushing hard. When you do that there is a chance that you make a mistake,” said Guay. “I feel like today the best skier won the downhill, and that was John Kucera.”
Manuel Osborne-Paradis also did not finish his run.
There is still a chance for Canada to meet its goal of two medals at the World Championships when the technical events, giant slalom and slalom, take place from Feb. 12 to Feb. 15.