It was a breakthrough weekend for the Canadian Alpine Ski Team for several reasons, not the least being Canadas fourth medal of the 2005 World Cup season.
Canmores Thomas Grandi kicked things off on Saturday with a sixth place finish in the giant slalom at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, maintaining his hold on second place in the GS standings behind Austrias Benjamin Raich with just one race remaining. Grandi now has 342 points, 21 points behind Raich.
"Entering todays race, I was extremely energized," said Grandi, referring to his wife Sara Renners bronze medal in the World Nordic Championships earlier this week Canadas first ever world championship medal in a cross-country event.
"The race to the giant slalom title is not over yet," Grandi added. "Benni (Raich) is skiing great so Ill have to do great things at the finals to win the title. Im very excited for that race because I know great things could happen there."
Francois Bourque, who was one of Canadas most consistent racers in the world championship speed and combined events, earned his first career giant slalom points with a 22 nd place finish.
The win went to Raich, followed by his Austrian teammate Hermann Maier. Kalle Palander of Finland was third.
The mens technical team went back to work the next day in the slalom. This time it was Whistlers Michael Janyk who stepped up, posting a career-best sixth on what Raich called the "most difficult slalom" on the circuit. The result also clinched Janyk a spot in the World Cup finals.
"This race, along with the one at the world champs, is the most nervous Ive ever been," said Janyk. "I knew this was my last chance to qualify for the World Cup finals so I had to go for it while skiing intelligently."
To qualify for the finals you need to be in the top-25 of any discipline. Janyk, who has a ninth, 16 th and 22 nd to his credit this season in slalom, just made the cut in 23 rd place.
Grandi got off to a bad start in his first slalom run and things didnt improve much on his second run. He still earned points with a 24 th place finish, and is 13 th in slalom the slalom standings. Like Janyk, he will represent Canada in slalom at the World Cup finals.
Patrick Biggs, Canadas top rookie this season with two top-10 results to his credit, straddled a gate on his first run. He finished the season 28 th in the slalom rankings, just missing the cutoff for the World Cup finals.
Giorgio Rocca of Italy took the slalom gold, followed by Andre Myhrer of Sweden and Raich.
While the men were clinching spots in Slovenia, Fernies Emily Brydon was leading the womens team in a speed series at San Sicario, Italy.
Brydon started off on Saturday with her top World Cup result of the season, a fifth place finish in the downhill.
"I wanted to give it my all today, so I charged from the top to the bottom," said Brydon, who was also checking out the new downhill course for next years Olympics.
The win went to Anja Paerson of Sweden, followed by Croatias Janica Kostelic. The two are duelling for the overall World Cup title, which will be decided at the World Cup finals. Hilde Gerg of Germany was third. Brydon finished just 0.12 seconds back of Gerg, who made her first downhill podium in five years.
The other Canadians didnt fare as well on the course, although Kelly Vanderbeek of Ontario managed to finish in the points with a 28 th place.
The following day Brydon used her new-found confidence to post a solid third place in the combined, winning Canadas fourth medal of the 2005 season. She was sitting in third place after the downhill in the morning, and followed up with a 10 th in the slalom. Putting her times together, Brydon stood in third place overall, claiming the second bronze medal of her career.
"I wanted to get some good mileage on this Olympic track," she said. "I am leaving San Sicario with good memories and this will certainly help me prepare for next years Olympics," she said. "I think the race hill in San Sicario is Emily friendly."
Brigitte Acton followed up her world junior championship silver with a 10 th place finish in the combined. Whistlers Britt Janyk was 19 th overall while Sherry Lawrence of Calgary was 21 st .
The win went to Kostelic, followed by Paerson.
The final events of the season are the World Cup finals in Switzerland. Brydon will be representing Canada in both the super G and slalom, Kelly Vanderbeek will race in the super G, and Genevieve Simard, Allison Forsyth and Gail Kelly made the cut in giant slalom.