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Hudec leads Canadian team at Lake Louise



The Canadian Alpine Ski Team has had some of its greatest success in recent years at the Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup races, turning home slope advantage into hardware.

However, the Canadian men weren't able to land a podium in either the downhill or super G races last weekend.

In Saturday's downhill, Michael Walchhofer and Mario Scheiber of Austria took the top two spots, followed by Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.

The top Canadian was Jan Hudec, who made his way into the top 15 from the unlikely 42nd start position. He finished 11 th , just one second back of the podium. Whistler's Manuel Osborne-Paradis was 13th, Erik Guay 24th, and Robbie Dixon 31st.

Given his late start number, Hudec's 11th place was as good as a victory for the Calgary skier, who has been on the sidelines on and off in recent years with knee injuries.

"It's almost impossible to describe," he said. "I was going up the chair this morning and I knew I could have a good run. I was thinking about what it would mean to get close to the podium. Words can't describe it, it was an inspired run. It was just short of a miracle - I didn't even know if I could ski this morning. My body has been that sore."

Osborne-Paradis is one of the Canadians who has been on the podium at Lake Louise, but was happy to be close to the top 10.

"Being near the top 10 is really not that bad," he said. "If I can stay around the top 10 all the time, I am bound to jump on the podium here and there. It's all about skiing hard and those races that you don't make mistakes you end up on the podium."

On Sunday, athletes were back in the gates for a super G race.

Osborne-Paradis was the top Canadian, in 15 th place. He was followed by World Cup super G champion Erik Guay in 16 th place and Robbie Dixon 17th. Jan Hudec was 33rd.

Osborne-Paradis was once again optimistic.

"It hasn't been the greatest weekend obviously but it's been a weekend that I can really build on," he said. "If you are top 10 or top 15 every race and you make those mistakes, eventually you will not make them and you will be standing on the podium."

This time the top two podium spots went to Swiss skiers, with Tobias Gruenenfelder in first and Carlo Janka in second. Romed Baumann of Austria was third.

The good news for the team is that downhill world champion John Kucera is back on snow after his knee injury, but it will likely be a month before he will be cleared to race.

Max Gartner, the president of Alpine Canada Alpin, isn't worried about the team's results.

"The guys had a rough training season so we are a little behind the eight-ball as far as preparation goes," he said. "I was really impressed with the way they are skiing but maybe they are not quite ready yet with the ultimate confidence to be at the top. I have no worries. The season is just starting. The big race is the World Championships in Garmisch, so no major concerns for my part."

While the men's team was at Lake Louise, the women's technical team was racing in Aspen.

None of the Canadian women made it to the second run of the giant slalom on Saturday, with the top three spots going to Tessa Worley of France, followed by Viktoria Rebensburg and Kathrin Hoelzl of Germany.

In the slalom the next day Marie-Michele Gagnon placed 15th, while teammates Eve Routhier and Anna Goodman were 19th and 23rd respectively - not bad for a field that started with 72 skiers.

"I definitely learned the lesson from yesterday," said Gagnon after the slalom. "I attacked a lot more because Saturday I really held back and was disappointed not to make 'the flip' (second run)."

"I am really excited for our team to have three in the top 30. We are really skiing well and are going to be a really good team for a long time."

This weekend the women's speed team is racing two World Cup downhill events and a super G at Lake Louise, while the men's speed team heads to Beaver Creek, Colorado for downhill, super G and giant slalom events. After that the tour shifts to Europe, with eight World Cup events in the month of December.



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