When Whistler hosted the Para-Alpine World Cup finals last spring, a test event for the 2010 Paralympics, the biggest highlight belonged to Rossland's Kimberly Joines. She won the super G title despite the fact that her sit ski broke after catching some air off a roller between the last gate and the finish line.
Her momentum carried her over the line, and to the health care centre for X-rays.
She placed first in the overall standings for super G last season, as well as second in the downhill and third in the super combined.
Now, on the eve of the 2010 Paralympics, Joines is injured again and will not compete in any of the speed events. She was recovering from having her appendix removed when she fell down a few stairs and fractured her leg. She underwent surgery to repair it, but would only have a few weeks to heel before the Paralympics.
But while she has been ruled out of the speed events she is still being assessed for the slalom, the last event of the Paralympic program. It will give her some more time to heal as well as to assess the injury. If she can ski without too much pain she's in.
The loss to the Canadian program is huge. Not only is Joines a solid medal contender in all the events, she is also the only female sit-skier currently with the team.
Despite the loss, Alpine Canada remains confident its athletes will be significant contributors to Team Canada's medal count during the Paralympics.
"Our athletes are at the end of the most successful Paralympic cycle in team history and last year we were on top of the Nations Cup standings for the first time," said Jean-Francois Rapatel, high performance director for the para-alpine program.
The team hasn't set a specific goal for medals, but with athletes like standing skier Lauren Woolstencroft (five-time Paralympic medallist as well as the reigning overall World Cup champion), visually impaired skier Chris Williamson (three-time Olympic medallist) and sit ski world champion Josh Dueck in the lineup, Canada remains a powerhouse.
"We have a plan, a well-prepared team, a talented group of coaches and staff and athletes with a track record in World Cup and World Championships to face the challenges of what will be a very competitive international field in Whistler," said Rapatel.
The team also benefited from additional coaching and support through the Own The Podium program, including a new prototype of sit ski that athletes used last year to win several medals.
"It's a relatively new piece of equipment, and as a small market there was not much done in terms of research for the equipment," said Rapatel of the sit ski. "A lot of athletes still compete on sit skis they made themselves or bought from a few companies that are working in Austria, the U.S. and Japan... and France. We never had a company in Canada that athletes could go to so we felt we were at a big disadvantage."
All of the para-alpine events will take place on Franz's Run, which many thought to be more challenging than the men's downhill course during the Olympics. This week testers were clocked over 120 km/h on the course in icy conditions, although things should slow down with snow in the forecast.
Tickets to the para-alpine events are available for $15 at ticket outlets and online at www.vancouver2010.com/tickets. Don't look for tickets to the downhill, however, as that event has already sold out.