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Canadians on a tear heading into New Year

Skiers finish season close to the podium, as Whistler's Jeff Hume announces his retirement

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The Canadian Alpine Ski Team is on a tear lately, winning seven World Cup medals in the weeks leading up to the New Year. Overall team performance improved as well, with athletes earning points at almost every event.

The sixth and seventh medals, a bronze in slalom and silver in giant slalom, were won by Canmore’s Thomas Grandi just days before Christmas.

The team trained through the holiday and was back on the slopes for Dec. 28. The men’s team headed to Bormio, Italy for a downhill on a long and challenging course.

The win went to Daron Rahlves of the U.S. by close to 0.7 seconds, followed by Fritz Strobl of Austria. Tobias Gruenenfelder of Switzerland took third.

Despite strong training runs, the Canadians didn’t manage to crack the top-10, but did put three athletes in the top-20.

Francois Bourque, 21, was the top Canadian in training and finished his day in 14 th place, while Erik Guay was 16 th . Manuel Osborne-Paradis of North Vancouver, an alumnus of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, was 18 th .

While the men were earning points in Italy, the women’s technical team had a frustrating weekend at Lienz, Austria.

In the giant slalom, Anja Paerson of Sweden took gold, followed by Nicole Hosp of Austria and Tina Maze of Slovenia.

The top Canadian was Genevieve Simard of Val-Morin, Quebec in 12 th place.

"I’m skiing really well right now. I’m making mistakes because I’m pushing the line and taking risks. It’s a good thing, but now I’d like to put two runs together," said Simard.

"It (takes) a bit of confidence to really push the line and you have to search for the feeling that you’re a little out of control, and I definitely felt that here so I’m closer to it."

Brigitte Acton of Mont-Tremblant, Quebec, earned a few points in 28 th place, but was otherwise frustrated by her race.

"I’m just not skiing like I’m training," she said. "My training is good. My focus is there and I totally believe in myself, that’s how I’ll get there."

Nanaimo’s Allison Forsyth also qualified for a second run, but was marked down as a DNF after she missed a gate in the top section. Britt Janyk did not qualify for a second run.

In the slalom the following day Janyk was the top Canadian, but only managed to finish 42 nd . She originally looked like she would qualify for a second run but was bumped back by a couple of skiers.

"I knew it wouldn’t hold but that’s the best placing I’ve seen in a long time," she said. "To me that says that what I’m working on is working."

Janyk will be back in action this weekend in another slalom at Zagreb, Croatia, where she hopes to qualify for February’s Torino Olympics.

Hume retires from the national team, joins WMSC

Whistler’s Jeff Hume announced his retirement from the Canadian Alpine Ski Team on Tuesday, Dec. 27, bringing an end to a career that spanned more than eight seasons.

It was a surprise announcement to say the least. In the 2004-05 season Hume ranked 36 th in the world in downhill, and had a career-best sixth place finish on the course in Chamonix.

But then Hume has also had his share of serious injuries over the years, including a concussion during the 2003-04 season. For Hume, who often posted some of the fastest split times on the top of the course only to crash or go off course in the lower section, it was always all or nothing.

So far this season the 26 year old had struggled, finishing just two of five World Cup races, both outside of the Top-30.

Still, Hume feels he’s retiring on a high note.

"I did not want to have any regrets or negative feelings for something that has been such a large part of my life for so long," said Hume in his retirement announcement. "On one hand I did not want to be a quitter, but I also didn’t want to be scared to move on. There was a fine line, but I believe that I made the right decision."

Hume already has plans for the future. He will join the Whistler Mountain Ski Club for the rest of the season as a coach, before embarking on a post-secondary education in real estate. He’s also looking forward to doing some travelling – without his skis – and has plans to visit Australia.

As a coach he feels he has a lot of skills and advice to pass on to the next generation of athletes.

"I would tell a young racer to be persistent. In skiing there are bad days as well as good and you can’t let the bad days cast a shadow. Hard work and perseverance are the keys," he said.

In his retirement letter, Hume also thanked his coaches over the years, as well as Alpine Canada Alpin, B.C. Alpine, the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, his sponsors, the Weasel Workers, the Sleddogs and his family.