It was an astonishing World Cup week for the Canadian Alpine Ski Team, with two medals in a womens giant slalom, and three men finishing top-20 in a downhill.
Showing the depth of the program, one of those results belongs to a rookie, Whistler Mountain Ski Club alumnus Manuel Osborne-Paradis, who is filling in for an injured national team athlete. Another rookie, Patrick Biggs, was 10 th in a World Cup slalom.
The week began on a low note when Mélanie Turgeon of Quebec City, the defending downhill world champion, announced last week that she was taking the remainder of the 2005 racing season off. She missed all of last season with herniated disks in her back and made a promising return to the World Cup circuit in November with a 16 th place finish at Lake Louise. She called a press conference on Jan. 6 to explain her decision to pull out of racing this year.
"The lack of training caught up with me," she said. "It was time to change our game plan. Things went relatively well in Lake Louise to start the season because I had four good training runs during the week. But once we travelled to Europe, things changed because of the lack of snow and lack of training. My results were less and less satisfying."
Rather than ski out the rest of the season, Turgeon instead opted to come home and start her training for the 2006 season, an Olympic year, in earnest. She said she would rejoin the national team at its first training camp in May.
"No, I am not retiring. I still love to ski. I want to come back, and I want to come back strong. Thats my objective."
While the pronouncement came as a blow to the national team, which has already lost three top performers on the mens side to injuries, they agreed that it was probably for the best.
"Normally, optimal preparation time is 55 to 60 days, but with Mélanie, considering her situation, she had always been able to get away with less," said Piotr Jelen, the head coach for the womens downhill team. "But yesterday (Wednesday) we looked at the videos and we said to ourselves that things couldnt go on like this."
As a result of the decision, Turgeon wont be in Bormio, Italy in February to defend her world championship title.
The good news for the Canadian team is that we still have a good chance of winning a medal there.