The Canadian Alpine Ski Team is taking a short but well-deserved break before the summer training sessions begin.
The training camps start in less than two weeks and run pretty much back to back until the 2004-05 season kicks off at the end of October. Its going to be a big year with the World Championships in February, and athletes competing for berths at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
While its been a season of ups and downs for the young team, there is also a sense that Canadian skiers are on the verge of a breakthrough. A few shining moments, milestones on the World Cup circuit, helped athletes to see that they are ready to compete against the best in the world.
Part of the reason for this optimism is in the results three Canadians made World Cup podiums this season, two of them making history in the process. More athletes were qualifying for second runs than in past years. And although injuries took a toll, athletes like Fernies Emily Brydon showed that you can come back better than ever.
The other part of this optimism is the strength of the national program. After a disappointing 2002 Winter Games, the team has been rebuilding under the guidance of Ken Read, a former downhiller and Crazy Canuck who was named as president of Alpine Canada Alpin following the Games. From the beginning Reads goal has been to put Canada back on top among the top alpine nations in the world by giving athletes the financial, technical and human resources they needed to succeed.
Less than a year after he started his Podium 2010 program showed signs of success. At the 2003 World Championships, Melanie Turgeon won the downhill and Allison Forsyth the bronze medal in the giant slalom, something that hadnt been accomplished since 1982 and 1952. Five Canadians also posted top-seven finishes, which was a first for the team.
Heading into this season, it looked like Canada would be able to build on that momentum. Things changed when Turgeon suffered a back injury in training that left her sidelined for the rest of the season. Allison Forsyth suffered tendonitis in her hips, and wasnt able to race to her usual standards.
However, Erik Guay made history when he finished second at Lake Louise, becoming only the second Canadian male to medal in the downhill on home turf; the first was Whistlers Rob Boyd in 1989. He was also the first Canadian ever to be on the podium at a Lake Louise World Cup.
Guay was injured in training just three weeks later and missed the rest of the season. Injuries also impacted Britt Janyk, Genevieve Simard, Jeff Hume, Jan Hudec and others over the course of the season.