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Going for Gold

Canadian women pushing each other, expect results



Last weekend the first giant slalom World Cup in Soelden, Austria kicked off the 2004-05 race season. For the first time there were nine Canadian women at the start for a World Cup GS. It was exciting for the team.

While preparing for the first race we did lots of on-hill training and lots of fitness work off-hill. Most recently we had some excellent training in Piztal, Austria. It’s the next valley over from Soelden and is absolutely beautiful. It’s also the place where most of the teams go for training at this time of year. The Germans were there, as were the Americans, the Norwegians, the Slovenians, the Swiss, the Austrians, the British…. It gets a bit crazy.

To get up to the glacier at Piztal everyone rides a train from the valley. It only takes about eight minutes to get from the base to the tram station, so it’s pretty neat. There’s one thing I won’t miss and that’s all the pushing and shoving that goes on to get onto the train. Nobody casually walks onto the train, no, everyone has to be competitive and push their way to get on and to the front. It’s the worst part of my day.

To get to the ski area we ride a tram, which consists of four gondola cabins. We take it around every run, from midway, and ski the top half, where it’s steepest. For that reason it’s a perfect place to train for super-G, giant slalom and slalom. On the busiest day last week we had about five super-G courses set up on the slope, and eight giant slalom courses lined up one next to the other. So, as I said, it can get pretty crazy.

The race on the weekend was not only exciting because we had nine girls at the start line, but also because we were ready to race. I’m not sure if you caught the results but Gail Kelly had the fastest time in the second run and finished 11 th overall. Gen Simard also had a solid race.

At the start, along with me, were Brigitte Acton, Sophie Splawinski, Emily Brydon, Allison Forsyth, Christina Lustenberger, and Anna Goodman.

The nine of us have been training together all summer. We push each other to the next level, and if Gail’s result shows us anything it’s that the rest of us are capable of doing the exact same thing – and we will do it.

For me, however, Soelden was not a great race. I expected more and wanted more. But, on the other hand, I know that my skiing is there, it’s been there in training and it will continue to be there. I now have three more weeks of training to bring it up prior to the next World Cup.

The men’s race on Sunday was just as exciting for us. Bode Miller of the U.S. has the fastest times, but Thomas Grandi was not far off the pace. He had a great first run and matched it with a great second run to finish seventh overall. The other Canadians at the start struggled and didn’t qualify or didn’t finish, but I have heard that they are skiing strong and that will show in the races in a couple of weeks.

On a side note, we had some excellent fans cheering us on. Four coaches from Eastern Canada decided to stick around after their ski camps and watch the women’s race on Saturday. Each painted their face with a red maple leaf and covered the rest of their faces with white paint. They had a big Canadian flag, a loud horn and made as much noise as possible. We do know how to cheer, which must be the hockey fan in all of us.

It was great to see some strong Canadian fans in a big Austrian crowd.

I am now in Italy for the remainder of the week, but as you read this I’ll already be on my way back to Canada for some time at home before the next round of races.

Five of us stayed after the race last weekend to train for the slalom at Val Senales. By Tuesday we had so far put in two days of training, with lots of lots of runs through lots and lots of gates. Oh, and up on the glacier today we counted 32 courses! Once again, it can get crazy.

On the bright side we are being fed delicious pasta, al dente of course, and the cappuccino is very tasty.

I hope the snow is starting to fall in Whistler. Soon things will be white, and I will have a lot more racing to write about.