The Canadian Alpine Ski Team launched a new season last weekend with a giant slalom at Soelden, Austria, and so far so good.
While the Canadian skiers missed the podium in both events, the team was solid overall with two men and three women qualifying for the second run, including three top-10 finishes.
In the mens competition on Sunday, Francois Bourque of New Richmond, Quebec finished fifth with his two-run time of two minutes, 18.42 seconds.
Austrians proved tough to beat on their home turf, taking three of the top four spots. Hermann Maier was first overall in 2:17.60, followed by last seasons overall World Cup winner Bode Miller of the U.S. in second with a 2:17.67. Rainer Schoenfelder and Benjamin Raich of Austria were third and fourth respectively.
Bourque started with bib 49 and faced some ragged course conditions to post the 14 th fastest first run of the day. He skied even more aggressively his second time through the gates, posting the fifth fastest time to finish fifth overall.
"Its not bad," said Bourque. "I know Im able to go faster. Its a question of skiing like in training.
"In the second run I was nervous because I did the same thing here last year. I finished 14 th in the first leg but the second run wasnt so good."
The result guaranteed Bourque a spot in the Olympic giant slalom. He had already qualified in the super-G with a bronze medal in Germany last season.
Thomas Grandi of Canmore, Alberta, who has already qualified to compete in the Olympic GS and slalom, had a disappointing first run but posted the third fastest second run to end his day in ninth.
"Its okay. Im not satisfied but its okay," said Grandi. "My first run I came out of the gate with tons of confidence. But I started turning and then nothing was going the way I wanted. I had to scramble and then I was scrambling the whole way down. I fought to stay on course. I did hit a rock with my left ski and with these kinds of conditions if you arent performing youre going to be in trouble.
"Second run I had a better feeling, I was skiing a lot better. I know I can ski a lot better than I did.
"At the same time its not a bad start to the season. And its great for Frank."
None of the other Canadians, Ryan Semple, John Kucera, or Julien Cousineau qualified for a second run.
In the womens GS on Saturday, Tina Maze of Slovenia took the gold, followed by Janica Kostelic of Croatia and Anja Paerson of Sweden, all of whom were separated by just half a second.
The top Canadian was Genevieve Simard of Val Morin, Quebec, who finished the day in ninth place. While almost two seconds back of the podium, Simard admitted that her goal was to race conservatively.
"I wanted to take this day as objectively as possible," said Simard. Its a good marker. Its another few weeks until the next races but Soelden is a good place to see where you are. This was very encouraging.
"Ive never started with such a good start number in GS. I was expecting the track to be smoother. I got shaken around first run. But in the second run I knew more what to expect and was more aggressive. That made a big difference."
Allison Forsyth of Nanaimo also had a good day, finishing 12 th . She was just getting over the flu, and is only starting to race as well as she did before she was sidelined last season by tendonitis in her hips.
"Im really okay with today because (in training) we didnt ski on any ice, and when I say any, I mean any hard snow," she said. "We had half the days of GS training we normally have. I think we had something like 15 days of GS so top-15 isnt bad."
Eighteen-year-old Brigitte Acton of St-Jovite, Quebec finished in 19 th place to qualify for the Winter Olympics.
Alpine Canada Alpins goal is to qualify 22 athletes for the 2006 Winter Olympics. The addition of Acton and Bourque in GS brings the number to 12.