A lot can go wrong on a downhill course as racers descend hundreds of metres of vertical at speeds of up to 140 km/h and yet the margin between first place and 30 th place can sometimes be measured by a second or two. Playing it safe to avoid making mistakes isn't an option either, as athletes who take chances cutting corners and carrying more speed out of turns gain precious time on their competitors.
Manuel Osborne-Paradis appears to have found a sweet spot this season, avoiding mistakes while finding the fastest - and sometimes riskiest - line on every course.
Last Saturday at Wengen, Switzerland, Osborne-Paradis earned his third World Cup medal of the season, placing second behind Swiss skier Carlo Janka on the longest downhill course on the World Cup circuit, the classic Lauberhorn.
"I felt like I was on the edge (of crashing) a couple of times, but I kept my tuck and I did that little extra thing I had to do," said Osborne-Paradis, who admitted being cautious in his training runs.
"When I got down I was pretty surprised with my time... I didn't know what to expect today, all I knew was that I had to go fast and obviously I believe what my coaches tell me about my skiing so I just went for it."
Osborne-Paradis already had two gold medals this season, one in downhill and one in super G. After his last downhill win Osborne-Paradis said one of the biggest differences this season has been his race preparation, watching video and having a plan for every course on the World Cup circuit.
Now Osborne-Paradis is ranked third in downhill and fourth in super G, as well as 10 th in the overall World Cup standings.
Erik Guay was 18 th in the Wengen downhill.
American skier Bode Miller placed first in the super combined event at Wengen, a shortened downhill and a slalom, with Carlo Janka and Silvan Zurbriggen of Switzerland second and third. Ryan Semple was the top Canadian, in 23 rd place.
Whistler's Mike Janyk had a solid day in Sunday's slalom, placing 10 th . Also earning points in the top 30 were Julien Cousineau in 14 th and Brad Spence in 19 th .
Janyk was disappointed with his first run, which put him in 18 th place heading into the second run. He made up eight spots with the fastest second run.
"My first run didn't go too well, my legs felt tired and I didn't give everything I could," said Janyk. "I made a few mistakes and it cost me a lot of time. I'm really happy about my second run and I won it, so I know I have what it takes to win."
Ivica Kostelic of Croatia took the win, followed by Andre Myhrer of Sweden and Reinfried Herbst of Austria.
The women's technical team also raced last week.
At a night slalom in Flachau, Austria, Jan. 12 Canada's Brigitte Acton placed 24 th . Marlies Schild and Kathrin Zettel of Austria were first and third for the home team, Maria Riesch of Germany was second.
From there the tour headed to Maribor, Slovenia for weekend giant slalom and slalom races.
In the GS Kathrin Zettel took the win, followed by Maria Riesch and Anja Paerson of Sweden. No Canadians qualified for a second run.
Things went a little better in the slalom with Canadians Brigitte Acton and Marie-Michele Gagnon placing 23 rd and 28 th respectively.
Zettel took the win and her third medal in three events, followed by Slovenian racer Tina Maze and Germany's Riesch.
This weekend's events will wrap up the qualification period for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The men will be in Kitzbuehel, Austria for downhill, slalom, super G and combined racers, while the women will be in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy for downhill, giant slalom and super G events.