After going without a single medal at the world championships, the Canadian Alpine Ski Team returned to the World Cup last week with new-found confidence and energy as they attacked the slopes in Germany and Italy.
The result was Canadas third medal of the season at Garmisch, Germany. Francois Bourque, 13 th in super G and 10 th in combined at the world championships, skied to a personal best third place in the Garmisch super G, a narrow 0.04 seconds back of winner Christoph Gruber of Austria.
The result was only Canadas third medal in a mens super G event, coming almost 17 years after Felix Belczyk won in Switzerland in 1988. Brian Stemmle was the first Canadian man to win a super G medal, in Japan in 1985.
"I really attacked and Im satisfied with my first podium finish even though I was just 0.04 (seconds) from the victory," said the 20-year-old Bourque, who hails from New Richmond, Quebec.
"When it became clear that I was on the podium, I didnt even realize it. It was only when (teammate) Erik (Guay) and the others started bashing me on the back saying yeah, Frank, a podium, a podium."
Grubers win was his first in four years. Didier Defago of Switzerland was second on the challenging Kandahar course.
The bronze metal guaranteed Bourque a spot in the World Cup finals in March. The team, confident that he would qualify, had already extended is plane ticket to allow him to compete.
Guay, who regained some confidence earlier in the week with strong downhill results, finished 11 th . John Kucera was 34 th , Manuel Osborne-Paradis 37 th and Whistlers Jeff Hume 40 th .
In the two previous downhill events, Guay was ninth and 13 th , two of his top results this season coming within 24 hours of each other. Guay was one of the most promising young stars in the sport before a knee injury in 2003 and a series of crashes and close calls this season derailed his confidence.
"I can feel my skiing coming back," he said. "Ive got more confidence, though there is still a ways to go.
"Now the pressure is off for the (World Cup) finals in Kvitfjell. I think Im pretty much guaranteed a spot in the finals."
Only the top-30 in each discipline are invited to the World Cup finals, where the overall and discipline champions are crowned.
As for the other Canadians, Osborne-Paradis was 20 th in the first downhill and 29 th in the second. John Kucera was 28 th on day one.
In the womens giant slalom last weekend in Are, Sweden, the site of the 2007 Alpine World Championships, the team placed six skiers in the top-30. Genevieve Simard and Allison Forsyth led the way, finishing seventh and eighth respectively, with Simard missing the podium by just 0.29 seconds. The win went to Maria Jose Rienda of Spain, followed by Austrias Nicole Hosp and Anja Paerson of Sweden.
Brigitte Acton was 18 th , while Gail Kelly, Emily Brydon and Sophie Splawinski rounded out the top-30 in 22 nd , 25 th and 28 th respectively. Kelly Vanderbeek didnt qualify for a second run, but was the hero a day earlier with her 13 th place finish in the super G. Brydon was 16 th in that race, while Simard was 25 th .
The gold super G medal went to Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria, followed by her teammate Alexandra Meissnitzer. Lucia Recchia of Italy was third.