By Andrew Mitchell
The alpine World Cup season kicked into high gear following the New Year with three events in the past week — a women’s slalom in Croatia, a women’s slalom and giant slalom in Slovenia, and a men’s slalom and giant slalom in Switzerland.
For the second straight week Canada failed to win a medal, ending a five-week streak through November and December that resulted in six medals for the team.
But while Canadians didn’t climb any podiums, several athletes continued to move up the rankings by earning top-30 results.
In the slalom at Zagreb-Sljeme, Croatia, Brigitte Acton of Montreal was the only Canadian in the race, placing 25 th . Marlies Schild of Austria continued to dominate in the discipline with her fourth slalom win of the season, followed by Ana Jelusic of Croatia and Sarka Zahrobska of Czech Republic.
Moving on to Slovenia, Genevieve Simard placed 13 th in the giant slalom. Acton, Emily Brydon, Britt Janyk, and Gail Kelly did not qualify for a second run.
Austria once again claimed gold, this time with Nicole Hosp at the top of the podium. Italy’s Nicole Gius was second, followed closely by Tanja Poutiainen in third.
In Sunday’s slalom Schild claimed her fifth slalom gold medal, and is on pace to set several records this year. Sarka Zahrobska picked up her second medal of the weekend, while Veronika Zuzulova of Slovakia claimed the bronze. Canada’s top skier was Acton, placing 21 st .
While still a few seconds back of a medal, Acton has earned points in four races this year, showing an encouraging level of consistency for the struggling women’s technical team.
Meanwhile the men’s team was in Adelboden, Swizerland for a pair of races.
In Saturday’s giant slalom, Canada placed two skiers in the top-30 after two runs. Calgary’s John Kucera, the World Cup leader in super G, made up for a conservative first run with one of the faster second runs of the day to place 12 th . Francois Bourque was seventh after the first run but dropped back to 20 th after making a mistake in his second run.
“Things got complicated in the second run as I didn’t feel confident on my skis,” he said. “I started strong, but made a crucial mistake after the first interval and made a series of mistakes which led me to the 20th position.”
Bourque earned a silver medal for Canada in Austria earlier in the season, and has already earned the right to race in the World Championships at Are, Sweden at the end of the month.