After Ontario's Erin Mielzysnki became the first Canadian woman to win a World Cup slalom in 40 years last season it was only a matter of time before she returned to the podium once again.
At a night event at Zagreb, Croatia, the 22-year-old put in two solid runs on a long and rutted course to pick up Canada's second medal of the season, a bronze, after Erik Guay's bronze in the downhill before Christmas. More amazingly, two of Mielzynski's teammates also cracked the top 10 with Marie-Michele Gagnon in eighth and Brittany Phelan two spots back.
"It's amazing. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and I knew I had to take some steps this year to get on the (podium)," said Mielzynski. "It's great to have this to build my confidence and remind me what it takes. I just want to learn from every experience and I learned a lot from today. We had three Canadians in the top 10 and I'm so happy for Mitch (Gagnon) and Britt, too. Now the men's team can come and do the same thing (on Sunday)."
Mielzynski was sitting fifth after the first run, and moved up to first after her second run with four skiers remaining. Two of them finished ahead of her, Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. and Frida Hansdotter of Switzerland, while the other two skiers got caught up in ruts and were knocked out of contention.
Whistler's Jim Pollock, the head coach for the women's technical team, predicted that this would happen at the last event when four Canadians placed in the top 30. "I'm proud of the team — staff and athletes," he said. "We knew it was coming. I think the girls were maybe trying too hard before but they are starting to build confidence and ski down from top to bottom. They didn't panic — they stuck to the plan."
Gagnon came into the event with a swollen ankle after spraining it while on a run around Zagreb. She wasn't sure how well she could do in the circumstances, but in the end she said the conditions and the course were more of a factor.
"First run I was definitely tentative but I'm really happy with the second run," she said. "I still made crazy mistakes and there's always things to learn but overall I'm really happy and I'm really happy for Erin and Britt."
For Phelan, it was her fifth consecutive top 30 result of the season and the best result of her career. Eve Routhier finished just shy of the top-30 in 32nd place, while Elli Terwiel didn't finish her first run.
In the men's slalom on Jan. 6, the team continued to struggle. Julien Cousineau was the only Canuck to finish his run, while placing well outside the top 30. Some 31 athletes did not finish the race after straddling gates, crashing or skiing of course, including the rest of the Canadians — Mike Janyk, Paul Stutz, Sasha Zaitsoff and Erik Read. They were in good company with Ted Ligety of the U.S., Giuliano Razzoli of Italy and Lars Myhre of Norway among the DNFs.
The win on the men's side went to Marcel Hirscher of Austria, followed by Andre Myhrer of Sweden and Mario Matt of Austria.