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Canadian downhillers searching for speed, results


For the Canadian men’s World Cup downhill team, 2001 couldn’t end soon enough.

The men’s downhill team – that is to say, Toronto’s Edi Podivinsky and Calgary’s Darin McBeath – wound up 2001 with more disappointing results in a pair of downhills at Bormio, Italy. The best Canadian result in the two races was Podivinsky’s 24 th in the second race, on Dec. 29. He was 2.70 seconds behind winner Fritz Strobl of Austria.

Podivinsky finished 29 th in the first race, Dec. 28, while McBeath was 33 rd in the second race and didn’t finish the first downhill.

After five races this season Podivinsky is in 40 th place in the World Cup downhill standings with 12 points. McBeath is 42 nd with nine points.

As has been the case for the past few seasons, everyone is chasing the Austrians, who hardly seem to miss Hermann Maier, the defending World Cup champion who is recovering from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident last summer.

Stephan Eberharter has stepped into the void left by Maier and is leading the World Cup overall standings and the downhill standings. A pair of third places at Bormio gave him 370 points in the downhill standings, 110 points ahead of teammate Fritz Strobl, who was second and first in the two Bormio downills.

The Austrians swept both podiums at Bormio, with Christian Greber winning the Dec. 28 race, finishing .46 seconds ahead of Strobl and .68 seconds ahead of Eberharter. The race was a make-up for the Beaver Creek downhill scheduled earlier this year.

The win was Greber’s first on the World Cup circuit. His only previous podium results were a third at Bormio two years ago and a third in the 1995 super G at Whistler.

The Austrians were even stronger in the Dec. 29 race, taking the top four spots. Fritz Strobl edged teammate Josef Strobl (no relation) by .19 seconds, while Eberharter was .69 seconds behind the winning Strobl. Klaus Kroell finished fourth.

While the Austrians placed seven in the top 15 at the second Bormio downhill, and have tremendous competition within their team for the four start numbers each country is allocated for the Olympic downhill in February, the Canadians are just trying to get on a roll.

Both Podivinsky and McBeath have met the Canadian qualifying standard for the Salt Lake Olympics, but last week’s 24 th place finish was Podivinsky’s best of the season to date. The bronze medalist in the 1994 Olympic downhill has had three top-five finishes at Bormio during his career, but was well off the pace this year.

On a more positive note, the World Cup downhill schedule takes a break this week, which should allow Podivinsky and McBeath to recharge and work on their skiing. Then there are four classic downhills in a row – Wengen on Jan. 12, Kitzbühel Jan. 18, Garmisch Jan. 26 and St. Moritz Feb. 2 – to get some momentum going prior to Salt Lake City.