Two Whistler Mountain Ski Club alumni are getting an earlier start to their FIS World Cup seasons than they may have anticipated.
Jack Crawford and Brodie Seger are both set to line up at the start gate for the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria on Oct. 28.
Crawford appreciates the chance to get some top-level racing in before the Canadian World Cup race in Lake Louise, Alta. next month, where Canadians have extra slots for Canuck racers.
"It's definitely exciting," Crawford, 21, said. "The biggest part of it is we're going to get a World Cup race before Lake Louise and Beaver Creek, (Colo.), which are a little more important to us because they're speed races. Soelden is a GS, which is one of our strong suits but at the moment, we don't have the start numbers in those events to leave a huge mark.
"Our goals are to go out there and prove what we're capable of."
Crawford and Seger both made the Canadian roster for the race after taking the top two spots in a time trial run by the team to determine which skiers should suit up. The qualifier also featured Sam Mulligan and Morgan Megarry.
"Going into the time trial, personally, I wasn't skiing super well and I just started to turn it on in the past few days. I was pretty excited that I actually managed to make it," Crawford said. "Brodie and I were lucky enough and were hopefully the right choices for the race coming up."
Admittedly a slow starter, Crawford was the beneficiary of fortuitous timing as he got his legs going at the ideal moment.
"I typically don't ski well at the start of camps. I've always been that way. It just takes me a little while to get into things and find my speed," he said. "There are other guys who can take a three-week break and hop back on skis and be super fast right away.
"I'm lucky that the time trial was when it was because I managed to start skiing fast just before it."
Seger, meanwhile, knew the course in the time trial would be tough, but he was able to bear down and reach his goal of lining up for his first-ever World Cup giant slalom.
"I was very nervous, to be honest," the 22-year-old said. "You had to finish the first run, and the first few guys running the course were having a tough time finishing. They were very difficult conditions—very icy—and I'm listening to the radio where the guys in front of me have been blowing out of the course.
"I was pretty nervous in the gate, but I don't mind that feeling. It lets me know that I'm doing something important that I care about."
With both racers anticipating similar internal competition to continue throughout the season, Seger and Crawford said they think the strategy should help bolster the Canadian team with additional motivation.
"If you beat out one of your teammates who also deserved to go, that just drives you even more to perform well when you get the shot," Seger said. "That's the reason we push each other so hard in training."
"It's definitely a good change for the team. In the past, we didn't have enough people and now that we do, it'll just allow us to get better and strive for more to get the chances to race World Cups," Crawford added.
Last year, three of Crawford's five finishes were between 32nd and 42nd, so his goal this year is to crack the elusive top 30, starting with Sunday's race.
"My goal is to consistently get in the top 30 and be on the World Cup program after the season," he said.
Seger has similar ambitions, with a trip to the World Championships in Sweden also at the top of his mind. Seger's best World Cup result came in his most recent race, the downhill at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany in January, where he took 43rd.
Seger expressed confidence in his skiing, explaining that after he and his teammates have completed plenty of high-volume training in recent years, they are all in a strong place technically and poised to take the next step.
"This summer, we wanted to take our intensity to the next level and find a way to put more power into each of our turns and generate more speed and really up the level of our intensity all around," he said.
Crawford, meanwhile, said he was also busy over the summer working on several facets of his approach, though they all direct to one basic goal.
"It's just trying to go fast all the time," Crawford said with a chuckle. "It's hard to say what we're working on. There's so much stuff—mental, physical, practical—and it's hard to bring it onto one point. But it all comes back to going fast."