The 2011-2012 season was shaping up to be one of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team's worst in several years with no medals in more than two months of World Cup competition. To be fair, a good part of the senior team is still on the sidelines nursing injuries or slowly coming back from injuries, while a few athletes have missed podiums by mere hundredths of seconds.
Everything changed on the weekend with Erik Guay finally breaking through in the downhill at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Guay placed second to Swiss skier Didier Cuche, with Hannes Reichelt of Austria in third.
Guay has now had five podiums at Garmisch.
"I just can't explain it," he said. "I just feel like I'm unstoppable when I get here. I'm obviously super happy to be on the podium today. I felt good and relaxed out there."
Guay knows he was also in a position to win the gold at one point. "I made a pretty big mistake in the middle and I probably lost the race there," he said. "That one mistake cost me."
Guay's silver medal aside, it was a groundbreaking day for the team. Jan Hudec was a respectable 12th overall, while Invermere's Ben Thomsen and Whistler's Conrad Pridy cracked the top 30 for the first time. Thomsen placed 23rd, while Pridy — in his first season with the team — was 25th.
Heading into the race, Pridy thought he would be coming home after the event to race at the NorAm level and gain more experience.
"It was going to be my last race and I had a pep talk with (speed coach) Johno (McBride) last night," said Pridy, who started the race in 50th. "He told me I needed to bring it today and I had a good run — it turned out to be fast. I'm happy. It was a great day for Canada."
The team did get some bad news with Whistler's Robbie Dixon injuring himself in giant slalom training in Paganella, Italy. He struck a gate, and while he stayed on his feet he later reported some concussion-like symptoms. Dixon had previously been sidelined with head injuries in two of the last three years. It's unknown when Dixon will return.
The Canadians didn't fare as well in the super G. Guay was the top Canadian in 11th, while Hudec was 24th.
The women's speed team was also active at St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Marie-Michele Gagnon was the top Canadian in the super combined event in 22nd overall, with the top three spots going to American Lindsey Vonn, Slovenia's Tina Maze and Austria's Nicole Hosp.
Vonn also won the downhill, followed by Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany and Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein. Larisa Yurkiw was 38th in her comeback race, after missing most of the last two years with a knee injury. Sarah Freeman was 45th and Kelly VanderBeek, also on the comeback trail from a two-year knee injury, was 47th.
Gagnon moved up to seventh overall in the second combined event, her best result in that discipline to date. The top three were Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. and Nicole Hosp of Austria.
The final event was the super G. Gagnon was 28th for Canada and Marie-Pier Prefontaine 35th. Vonn took the win, followed by Hoefl-Riesch and Anna Finninger of Austria.