By Andrew Mitchell
Calgary’s John Kucera walked up the steps to his second World Cup podium this past weekend at Val Gardena, Italy, claiming his second medal of the season — also the fifth for the national team, and third for the men’s speed team.
Kucera followed up his gold medal performance in the Lake Louise super G with a bronze in the same event at Val Gardena.
Bode Miller of the U.S. placed first with a very aggressive run, while Christoph Gruber of Austria was second. Kucera finished just 0.09 seconds back of Gruber, charging hard out of the gate before settling in for a smooth run on the icy but otherwise easy course.
With two medals, Kucera continues to sit on top of the super G rankings and wears the red leader’s bib. He is ranked fifth in overall World Cup points.
Somewhat of an unknown before the start of the season, Kucera is determined not to let this season get away.
“I know I worked really hard this summer in the gym and in the on-snow summer and fall training,” he said. “I started to focus on the small things and I see good results coming off that hard work.
“I didn’t want to be a one-race wonder and it feels good to get that second good result in there and show I can perform well — not only in Lake Louise, but in any other venue across the world.”
Teammate Francois Bourque placed 10 th , just 0.38 seconds back of Kucera in one of the tightest races yet this season. Erik Guay — Canada’s top speed racer for the past few years — had another consistent run to place 13 th . As a result three Canadian racers earned points for finishing in the top-30.
In Saturday’s downhill, Vancouver’s Manuel Osborne-Paradis — an alumnus of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club — just missed his second podium of the season. He finished fifth, just three hundredths of a second back of the bronze medal.
“I am really happy,” he said. “This is a tough course and you really need to know the terrain to be fast. I could have had a better run and I know the areas I need to improve.
“After the inspection today I was thrilled, I really wanted to ski it. I had a smile on my face — I love that course. It’s the downhill of all downhills.”
Steve Nyman of the U.S. picked up the gold medal, followed by Didier Cuche of Switzerland who rallied from an early mistake to get onto the podium. Third went to Fritz Strobl of Austria.