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Guay makes history with downhill win

Canadian great matches Podborski's all-time World Cup medal mark

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It was an exchange that truly marked an historic moment in Canadian ski racing.

Hours after Erik Guay tied the all-time record for World Cup medals by a Canadian skier, the man whose mark he matched offered up congratulations and the encouragement to go on and take the record all to himself.

"I just want to really make sure you understand how historic this victory is," Steve Podborski told Guay on a media call after the Saslong men's downhill from Val Gardena, Italy, on Saturday, Dec. 21.

"I look forward to you actually breaking this record, getting some more podiums and knocking 'em all off."

Guay's 20th-career podium finish equaled the number Podborski earned during his time with the legendary Crazy Canucks team in the late 1970s and early '80s, and it came in a thrilling triumph — his first on the World Cup tour since 2010.

"It is an absolute special victory today," said Guay, who finished third at Val Gardena last season. "It was kind of sweet revenge today to come back in this fashion, especially after the summer I had with knee surgery, no skiing for seven months and a big question mark on whether I'd even be competing at Lake Louise and in this part of the year.

"It's a great day and I'm kind of on Cloud Nine right now."

Guay skied a tremendous bottom section to take the lead away from eventual runner-up Kjetil Jansrud of Norway. He trailed by nine-tenths of the second at the course's halfway point but crossed the finish with a 12-hundredths margin of victory.

"It was pretty variable conditions at the start of the day, so when I left there was quite flat light on the top section," said Guay. "I think I skied the bottom exceptionally well, and obviously I'm really excited about the day."

It was a memorable weekend for the Canadians at Val Gardena overall. Jan Hudec also hit the podium with a silver-medal finish in Friday's super-G, then joined Guay and Manuel Osborne-Paradis in the top 10 of the downhill on Saturday.

Guay now has four victories — two in downhill, two in super-G — among his 20 podium finishes, the first of which came at Lake Louise back in the 2003-04 season. All of Podborski's top-three results came in downhill, though he captured eight wins and an Olympic bronze during his racing years.

Podborski said he'd be thrilled to see Guay equal and surpass those marks as well.

"I want him to break every record as soon as possible," said Podborski, who is Chef de Mission for Canada's team at the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, this winter.

"What we should do in Canada is lift each other up. The better he is, the better we are, and that means when Erik is finished ... and he's maybe the Chef de Mission for the Olympic team 20 or 30 years from now, there will be another young racer that he can cheer on to break his records, and that means we'll be better than we were before."

Nancy Greene-Raine also had 20 podium finishes during her career, including her two medals from the 1968 Olympics, which counted as World Cup results at the time.

France's Johan Clarey finished third on Saturday, while Whistler-trained skier Osborne-Paradis was seventh and Hudec finished ninth.

Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal won Friday's super-G, more than a half-second ahead of Hudec, while French skier Adrien Theaux finished third. Osborne-Paradis did not finish.

Each of the three Canadian skiers have recorded a top-four finish so far this season, and Guay said it's encouraging to see the team challenging for the podium each week — particularly with the Olympics only a matter of weeks away.

"I wish Sochi was tomorrow," said Guay. "I'm confident at the moment, my skiing's going very well."

Whistler's Robbie Dixon came up just a few tenths short of earning World Cup points in the super-G Friday, finishing 35th. He also finished 53rd on Saturday, making his first World Cup downhill start since March 2012.

Conrad and Morgan Pridy finished 45th and 47th, respectively, in super-G. Conrad Pridy also raced the downhill and finished 39th from the 49th spot on the start list.

The Canadian speed team will remain in Italy this week for a downhill at Bormio on Dec. 29.

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