By Andrew Mitchell
For two days in a row a Canadian athlete sat in the hot seat at Lake Louise, nervously watching as skier after skier crossed the finish line just shy of their times.
On Saturday the athlete was Manuel Osborne-Paradis, a North Vancouver skier who learned to race with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club. Osborne-Paradis finished second in the opening World Cup downhill of the season. His result was topped by Calgary’s John Kucera, who won Sunday’s super G.
Osborne-Paradis was the fourth skier out of the gate, and crossed the line in a time of one minute, 50.72 seconds. It was a ragged run out of the start-gate but it was worth it as he had a sizeable lead on the previous three skiers when he brought his skis under control.
“I had a little trouble at the start but for most of the race I felt like I was seeing 20 metres ahead of normal. I just knew what I needed to do,” said Osborne-Paradis. “It was a little nerve-wracking standing there waiting for each racer to come down but what an exciting day. I’m really happy for the whole team.”
Osborne-Paradis, 22, was in the hot seat for 24 skiers, until Liechtenstein’s Marco Buechel crossed the finish just 0.05 seconds ahead of the Canadian. Peter Fill of Italy was ahead of Osborne-Paradis on some of the splits, but lost some speed toward the bottom to finish just 0.14 seconds out of first place. Hans Grugger of Austria was fourth, on a rare day when there were no Austrians on the podium.
Three other Canadians cracked the top-30, a strong showing for the team. Kucera placed 14 th , the best result of his career, while fellow Albertan Jan Hudec was 17 th . Erik Guay, who won silver at Lake Louise in 2004, had some trouble finding his rhythm this year to place 23 rd . Guay missed most downhill events last year with an injured knee, but managed to place fourth in the Olympic super-G.
“It was a great result for the guys, I’m really happy for them,” said men’s head coach Paul Kristofic. “They punched through as a team and Manny’s performance was beyond what we expected. We always knew he could do it but it was great to see him do it here today.”
The Canadians continued to show how hard they worked in the off-season on Sunday, with Kucera winning the super-G with his family and friends looking on.