Its been a long way to the top for Richmonds Alexa Loo. The former Whistler resident was been on the World Cup circuit since 1996, and until last weekend never finished on the podium in a parallel giant slalom or parallel slalom event. In fact, the 33-year-old Loo even mulled retirement at one point, but in recent years has shown a steady improvement and consistency that eluded her in her early career.
Now, Loo is the only member of the womens alpine team to qualify for a spot in the 2006 Olympics. In her last seven World Cup appearances Loo has earned points in the top-30, and she has cracked the top-10 twice.
But while a podium was a long time coming, a third place finish in the PGS at Kronplatz, Italy last weekend still made a huge impact on Loo.
"I feel great, everything fell into place today," she said. "I was focused and I was there to do a job. It was wonderful. With the Olympics around the corner this is a big confidence boost. It was my last World Cup before the Games and it was great to be on the podium and be reassured that I can compete at that level. I think I can repeat this performance at the Olympics."
Loo gave some of the credit to the return of alpine coach Mark Fawcett of Whistler. Fawcett was absent for the last few weeks for the birth of his first child.
"It was great to have him with us and to feel his energy at the starting gate," said Loo.
In the finals, Daniela Meuli of Switzerland edged past Julie Pomagalski of France to take the gold. Loo held off a challenge from Michelle Gorgone of the U.S. in the small finals to take the bronze.
The only other Canadian result in the top-30 belonged to Kimiko Zakreski, who finished her day in 27 th .
Meanwhile the Swiss team dominated the mens competition with Philipp Schoch, Simon Schoch, Marc Iselin and Gilles Jacquet finishing first through fourth respectively. None of the Canadians cracked the top-30.
The Canadian team was also shut out of the podium in the snowboardcross event the day before, which is a rarity this season.
Dominique Maltais bumped boards with another competitor in the semi-finals and was relegated to the small final, where she finished first to rank fifth overall on the day. Whistlers Maëlle Ricker was one spot back in sixth, while Erin Simmons of Vancouver finished her day in 13 th .
The win went to Sandra Frei of Switzerland, followed by Karine Ruby of France and Alexandra Jekova of Bulgaria.
In the mens competition, Jasey-Jay Anderson of Mont Tremblant was nudged off-course by another rider and relegated to the small final which he also won to finish fifth.
"I was pushed in my semifinal by (Swiss rider Michael Huser)," said Anderson. "The race director should have disqualified him. And in addition I actually finished third in the semi because the Austrian rider fell at the finish just as I passed him. So I was third and if the Swiss would have been disqualified Id be in the final. So after the semi, I just didnt care anymore how I did (in the B final)."
The win went to Jason Smith of the U.S., followed by Marco Huser, Jayson Hale of the U.S. and Paul-Henri Delerue of France.
The only other Canadian to crack the top-30 was Vernons Tom Velisek in 19 th .