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Mixed weekend for speed skiers

Jan Hudec, Erik Guay in top six in Lake Louise Winterstart Super G



The Canadian Alpine Ski Team didn't win any medals at home this weekend as Lake Louise hosted its annual Winterstart speed events, but it was close — a tenth of a second close.

The team struggled a little in the downhill on Saturday but found its stride in the super G on Sunday with two racers in the top six. Jan Hudec placed fourth in that race, one-tenth of a second back of the bronze medal position, while Erik Guay placed sixth, just eight one-hundredths back of Hudec in a close race all around.

Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway was the top skier in 1:23.47, followed by Swiss veteran Didier Cuche in 1:23.70 and Adrien Theaux of France in 1:24.11.

"It was an awesome day for Canadians," said Hudec. "Before I went up for my run I was watching Erik with his dad on one of the TVs inside and he came down a second ahead. When you see something like that from a guy who struggled yesterday and came back the next day and just owned it like that, it boosts the morale of the whole team."

Hudec sat in the hot seat for a while, until he was bumped off the podium.

"As soon as I came through the finish and heard people screaming, I knew it was a good run. I put everything on the line, skied smart where I had to and just made that one mistake on the bottom — but that's a calculated risk."

Guay said the biggest difference for him on Sunday was start position.

"Honestly, I didn't feel that much different than yesterday," he said. "I can say that I was pretty lucky with the start number. Starting earlier is a big advantage in soft conditions like that."

Invermere's Ben Thomsen, a rookie with the speed team last year, came away with his second top 30 result of the weekend in 27th — something that will boost his start number in future races. Louis-Pierre Helie, in his first weekend back after losing a year to a knee injury, placed 53rd, while Whistler's Robbie Dixon — coming back from a concussion — had tough, snowy conditions as the first skier through the gate and skied off the course.

Canada's medal hopes were high in the downhill on Saturday after athletes were fast in training.

"I'm proud to be the top Canadian (in 12th)," said Dixon. "Obviously I wanted to be a little closer to the podium, but... I'm happy with my performance.

"Considering the conditions were tough, starting second was awesome because the course was pretty smooth. It's always a little tough when you have lots of fresh snow — you can't really pin the straight line that you want because the track isn't there yet. But all things considered, I had one of the best runs of my life."