By Andrew Mitchell
After a slow couple of weeks following the holidays the Canadian Alpine Ski Team found its groove again this past weekend, adding two more medals to their growing collection. Athletes who finished off the podium also managed to come close in some races, and finish in the top-30 in others to earn key FIS points.
The highlight of the weekend was Erik Guay’s and Manuel Osborne-Paradis’s double podium in the downhill at Val d’Isere, France on Saturday.
For Guay, who finished just 0.26 seconds back of Pierre-Emmanuel Dalcin, a silver medal was redemption. After winning four medals in his first and early second season with the national team, he has been held back by a series of frustrating knee injuries. Finally healthy this season, his results have steadily improved from week to week.
“When I came here I just felt really focused and comfortable on my skis,” he said. “It’s been great that the team has been doing so well this year and having so much success that we can get two guys on the podium in one day, that’s pretty incredible.
“We’ve had medals in four disciplines this year so there are no more reasons to question us. I think we are just getting deeper and deeper. Everyone is really focused and motivated and if it’s not the speed team getting podiums it’s the technical guys. So it’s just really fun to be on the team right now.”
Osborne-Paradis, who trained and raced with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club until two seasons ago, placed a close third behind Guay to earn his second World Cup downhill medal of the season. His first medal was a silver at Lake Louise Winterstart.
Although he has struggled to get back into the top-10 since that performance, Osborne-Paradis never stopped trying.
“You go through some races and go back to the drawing board to try to figure things out,” he said. “It’s great to feel like this after a race.
“When I started skiing, that’s what I wanted to do — get on the podium at a World Cup race. This just proves that I can do it and that’s the best feeling.”
The last time two Canadians stood on the same podium was in 2005 when Genevieve Simard and Allison Forsyth placed second and third in a giant slalom in Italy.
The two additional medals brings Canada’s medal haul to eight, two-thirds of the way towards Alpine Canada’s goal of 12 medals this season. The team also has the goal of two medals at the Alpine World Championships.
Francois Bourque also cracked the top-30 on Saturday, placing 30 th .
Meanwhile the women’s team was having some success of its own in Italy. In Saturday’s super G at Cortina D’Ampezzo, Kelly VanderBeek placed 14 th , Genevieve Simard 22 nd and Emily Brydon 25 th . Whistler’s Britt Janyk finished just out of the points in 32 nd .
The race itself was delayed more than three hours due to rain and warm weather. Although the course held up for the most part, the later skiers had deeper ruts and slower conditions to contend with.
The win went to Julia Macuso of the U.S., followed by Austrian skiers Nicole Hosp and Renate Goetchl.
In Sunday’s downhill, Emily Brydon was the top Canadian in 16 th place, one spot ahead of Britt Janyk.
“I kind of have mixed emotions,” said Brydon. “I know I should be in the top-10. I tried to take advantage of the good conditions.”
For Janyk, she was the 42 nd skier down the course. Her first run was interrupted by a course official when the skier ahead of her went off course, forcing her to make another start.
“That was my first time ever being flagged,” said Janyk. “I was coming down in the fastest part of the course where I was skiing head down, and then when I looked up I saw someone in my line.
“I took the time on the chair to settle down, get calm and prepare for a second start.”
Kelly VanderBeek also cracked the top-30, placing 21 st .
Remate Goetschl of Austria took the win, followed by Julia Macuso and Marie Marchand-Arvier of France.
In Monday’s giant slalom, Genevieve Simard missed the podium by just 0.59 seconds, placing fourth. Karen Putzer of Italy took the win, followed by Julia Mancuso and Italy’s Denise Karbon.
“I am happy but a bit disappointed,” Simard said. “Fourth place is always the hardest position since you’re so close to the podium. Today was by far my best race of the weekend and maybe the best of the season.
“Today I got out of my comfort zone, attacked the course… and that’s exactly what I need to do to get on that podium.”
None of the other Canadian athletes managed to complete two runs.
With the men’s races at Kitzbühel, Austria cancelled due to lack of snow, next up for the alpine team are the Alpine Skiing World Championships in Are, Sweden from Feb. 3 to 18.
Big medal haul for disabled ski team
The Canadian Disabled Alpine Ski Team claimed 10 medals in three days of racing in Aspen, Colorado, to open the Para-Alpine World Cup season.
On the first day, visually impaired skier Chris Williamson won both super G races with guide A.J. Brown, while Lauren Woolstencroft won both races in the standing category. Kimberly Joines, a sit skier, did not finish her first race, but came back in the second event to win Canada’s fifth gold of the day.
In the first giant slalom on day two, visually impaired skier Kathleen Forestell and guide Emily Glossop picked up the silver medal, while Whistler’s Brad Lennea placed ninth in the men’s sit-ski event.
In the second giant slalom on day two, Forestell picked up her second silver, while Lauren Woolstencroft placed second in her category. Chris Williamson placed third.
In the final slalom, Woolstencroft and Williamson took gold medals to make it four medals each. Whistler’s Matt Hallat placed ninth in the men’s standing category.