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Canadian women hit stride in giant slalom

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Five in top 30 at Are, Sweden

The Canadian Alpine Ski Team knocked down more than gates in World Cup action at Are, Sweden last weekend.

Although the team didn’t make it to any podiums, the women’s team set a new World Cup record with five Canadian athletes qualifying in the top-30 for a second run.

"It’s the first time in history we have five girls in the second run," said Jim Pollock, the Canadian women’s technical coach. "We had three qualify once or twice, so that’s a big step. I think we have seven spots next year to start in GS. That’s a big team and you can do a lot with that.

"It was a good team day today. I’m already looking forward to next year."

Nanaimo’s Allison Forsyth, 25, and Montreal’s Sophie Splawinski, 18, led the Canadian effort by tying for 12 th place.

Forsyth, who was one of the top GS racers in the world coming into this season, is steadily improving as she continues to rehabilitate the tendonitis in her hips.

Despite a slow start to the season, Forsyth has actually skied through the pain to 15 th in the World Cup rankings. With a little more work, she knows she can return to the form that won her a bonze medal in the GS at the 2003 world championships.

"My hips cramped up really bad as soon as I crossed the finish line," said Forsyth, who moved from 27 th to 12 th with a strong second run. "I am not functioning at 100 per cent.

"I’m still pretty competitive, top-15, but I need to take some time, get a great recovery and come back competitive because I know I belong on the podium.

"My focus is to win a medal at the Olympics, to win a medal at the world championships, and I don’t really feel confident going with a 75 per cent gas tank right now."

Splawinski was in 16 th after her first run and moved up four spots in the standings.

"This was unexpected. They told me Gen (teammate Genevieve Simard) came down and had an awesome run and said you could just attack it. I was really pumped and it really gave me the extra little push," said Splawinski.

As a rookie with the national team, 12 th was Spawinski’s best finish, improving on her 14 th place finish in the super G on the day before.

"I’ve been skiing well lately and I knew I could come out here and do something."

Gail Kelly of Ste-Anges de Beauce, Quebec, another rookie with the national team, finished 16 th after a strong second run.

Whistler’s Britt Janyk, who is making her own comeback after an injury sidelined her for the beginning of the season, was 13 th after the first run but dropped back to 22 nd after making a few errors in her second run.

"I was really happy with my first run, though I lost a bit of time at the bottom," said Janyk. "I think I might have over-skied the second run. It wasn’t very fast but that’s racing. I’ve had an up and down season, coming back up now, and I’ve got to build on that."

For Genevieve Simard, the day was something of a heartbreaker. After finishing ninth in the first run, she made a mistake up on the top of the second leg that all but stopped her momentum. She got back on course, but finished a frustrated 29 th .

The result cost her the chance to compete in the World Cup giant slalom finals at Sestrieres, Italy. The 23-year-old from Val-Morin, Quebec has already earned a spot in the super G finals.

In the first day of racing at Are, three Canadians made it into the super G finals. Splawinski was 14 th , Simard 19 th and Fernie’s Emily Brydon was 30 th – her worst finish in a World Cup downhill or super G this season.

"It’s disappointing," said Brydon. "I couldn’t find my rhythm. From start to finish."

Forsyth also raced, but finished out of the top-30 after a fall on the upper section of the course. On the bright side, she said the super-G event didn’t hurt as much as the slalom or giant slalom.

Following the slalom events at Levi, Finland next weekend, the women’s World Cup season will wrap up with the finals at Sestrieres.

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