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Grandi leads Canadian World Cup efforts


Simard posts eighth place finish, qualifies for Salt Lake City

Canmore’s Thomas Grandi got an early Christmas and New Year present on Dec. 20 th with a sixth place finish in the giant slalom at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.

It was the 30-year-old’s second best finish in a World Cup race in his eight years with the Canadian Alpine Ski Team.

"This time I went for a more solid first run because I absolutely wanted to come through," he said. "I wasn’t too satisfied with my 25 th place (in the qualifier) so I gave it my best all afternoon. I felt strong and I definitely wanted to improve my standings at the end of the day."

The icy conditions helped Grandi to the second fastest time of the day on the second run, after starting the day way back in 52 nd place. The result also moved him up to 15 th in the World Cup giant slalom rankings.

"It’s important to be aggressive in both runs to have a serious chance to finish among the best. With three more giant slalom races to go until the Olympics, I believe that I will have the opportunity to find back my best rhythm."

By jumping from 52 nd to sixth, Grandi also earned a bonus gold nugget worth $1,000 – the Winterthur Newcomer of the Race award, which is awarded to any racer who cracks the top 15 with a bib number higher than 45. Canada’s Genevieve Simard also won the award at Lake Louise.

The top three spots went to Sweden’s Fredrik Nyberg followed by Austria’s Benjamin Raich and Slovenia’s Uros Pavlovcic.

On the following day, Raich took over in the second giant slalom. Bode Miller of the U.S. was second, followed by Didier Cuche of Switzerland.

Two Canadians, Jean-Philippe Roy and Grandi, cracked the top 30, finishing 21 st and 22 nd respectively.

On Dec. 22, Roy found himself in ninth place in the slalom. It was the 22-year-old’s fifth top 30 result of the season.

"I can only say I’m so happy," said Roy. "It’s such a difficult event. It’s the best Christmas gift I could ask for.

"I had a solid first run and the conditions in the second were very difficult. But once I got through, I knew I had a chance. It’s so great and I’m so proud to be here."

Grandi was on pace to crack the top 10 in the slalom, but ran into a gate on his second run.

The top three spots in that race went to Jean-Pierre Vidal of France, followed by Austria’s Mario Matt, and Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic.

Meanwhile, the women’s team was in St. Moritz, Switzerland for a downhill on Dec. 21 and a Super-G on Dec. 22.

Home field advantage played a role as Swiss Sylviane Berthod and Corinne Rey Bellet took first and third in the downhill. Italy’s Isolde Kostner was second.

Melanie Turgeon was the top Canadian in a tight race, finishing 22 nd – less than a second and a half off the podium.

In the super-G, Quebec’s Genevieve Simard finished an amazing eighth after starting dead last, wearing bib number 64.

She also won her second Winterthur Newcomer of the Race award. Oh, and she also qualified for the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.

"It’s hard to explain," said Simard. "It’s definitely a dream come true. As a child I always dreamt of making it, and it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do.

"Entering this season, I knew that it would be a big task for me to qualify this year. Looking at my results from last year, I knew it would be a big step but I also knew it was possible. It’s been a great motivator for me this season."

Italian skiers Karen Putazer and Daniela Ceccarelli placed first and second in the race, followed by Austria’s Stefanie Schuster and American Kirsten Clark, who tied for third.

The Canadian Team will break for Christmas and hit the slopes with events in Austria and Italy on Dec. 28 and 29.

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