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Canadian women finally get it together at Lake Louise

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Simard, Brydon, Turgeon in top-15 of super G

All’s well that ends well they say, and if that’s the case, then the Canadian Alpine Ski Team should be walking tall after the Winterstart World Cup events at Lake Louise wrapped up last weekend.

The Canadians started off slow in the first downhill on Friday. Hilde Gerg of Germany won her second World Cup of the season with a time of one minute and 33.72 seconds. Carole Montillet of France took the silver medal in 1:33.92. Kirsten Clark of the U.S. surprised everybody with the bronze medal in 1:34.05.

Mélanie Turgeon of Beauport, Quebec, was the top Canadian in 31 st position. After the race, she admitted that she had made a crucial error.

"It happened after the first 40 seconds, when I caught an edge. In a split second I had to make a decision, either my season was finished or I finished the race," she said. "I decided to finish the race so I had to pull back to avoid ending up in the security net."

Whistler’s Christina Risler was the next Canadian on the ladder, finishing 48 th . Emily Brydon, in her first downhill since surgery on both knees, was 49 th , Geneviéve Simard was 50 th , Sophie Splawinski was 52 nd , and Kelly VanderBeek was 53 rd .

Gerg was poised to win her third World Cup in a row on the second day of downhill racing when she lost control and crashed near the top of the course after missing a gate.

Montillet, the reigning Olympic downhill champion, won with a time of 1:33.89. Corinne Rey-Bellet of Switzerland was second in 1:34.63, and Austria’s Renate Goetschl third in 1:35.17,

Turgeon fared better on the second day, finishing 14 th with a time of 1:35.94 – certainly nothing to sneeze at, but not what the 25-year-old wanted either. "It seems like every race in Lake Louise doesn’t quite go the way I plan it, but I work hard, I try, and someday it will pay off," she said.

Also for Canada, Brydon was 43 rd , Splawinski was 44 th , and VanderBeek was 47 th .

Risler had a highlight reel crash into the netting on her run, breaking a ski in the process. She amazed the crowd when she stood up unhurt, and skied down the mountain on another pair of skis. She credited her turtleback protector for the save.

"I made sure I could move all my fingers and toes," she said. "I’m okay."

It wasn’t until Sunday’s super-G that the Canadians would be happy with their efforts.

Genevieve Simard, last year’s World Cup Rookie of the Year, finished a career best sixth place with her time of 1:11.43.

"Today I skied well. I charged and definitely did what I wanted to do," said the 22-year-old. "You’re not a champion if you ski nice and don’t get out of your comfort zone. They don’t call me ‘Torpedo Sim’ for nothing.

"I needed to come down and be first for a while – to see number one on the board and raise my arms. I will definitely remember that feeling from today and it will help me get fired up for Europe."

Also in the top-10 was Fernie’s own Brydon, one of the most promising skiers on the women’s team until she was sidelined for most of the last two years with knee injuries. The previous week she said it would take her a while to get used to the speed and the risk again, but it evidently didn’t take as long as she thought.

"My run today was Emily starting to race again. I felt confident, like I was charging the course – the course wasn’t charging me. We (the Canadian team) belong with the best and this will be the start of a good season for us," she said.

Turgeon finished the day in 15 th place, giving the Canadian speed team three spots in the top-15.

Risler was back on her skis as well, but had to settle for 49 th place.

The gold medal went to Karen Putzer of Italy in 1:10.68, followed by Martina Ertl of Germany in 1:10.97, and Montillet with her third medal in as many days with a time of 1:11.13.

The World Cup resumes this weekend with giant slalom and super-G events at Val d’Isere, France. The men will also be there, racing in downhill and GS.

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