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No medals but Canada confident for 2006

Grandi encouraged by depth, youth, passion of technical team



The 2005 FIS Alpine World Championships ended on a high note for the Canadian team last weekend. Although the Canucks couldn’t repeat the two medals earned in the 2003 world championships, the podium only tells part of the story.

In terms of consistent performances, top-15 finishes and overall aggressive skiing, the 2005 season is showing the depth and talent of Canada’s young skiers as well as the team’s relative inexperience – the average age of the 18-member team was just 22.7 years. If you take Thomas Grandi’s 32 years away from the big picture, the team average was just 22.2. In addition, eight of the Canadian skiers at Bormio, Italy were taking part in their first world championship event.

The Canadians have also been missing several skiers due to injury, including Vincent Lavoie, Jan Hudec and Julien Cousineau. Melanie Turgeon, the 2003 world downhill champion, also pulled out of competition this season to focus on training after missing the previous season with a back injury.

Still, all’s well that ends well.

In the men’s world championship slalom on Saturday the Canadians managed to put three athletes in the top-11, the team’s best showing in any slalom event.

Canmore’s Grandi put down two solid runs to finish sixth, 0.68 seconds back of third place. For Grandi, who was also fifth in the men’s giant slalom three days earlier, the result was all about experience.

"The snow softened up during the second run, which was good because I’m comfortable in such conditions," he said. "I’m one of the older guys and I remember racing in the days when there were ruts and organizers didn’t salt the course. This is why I still managed to ski well in the second run even though the temperature increased.

"Of course a medal would have been nice in slalom, but I tackled the day with the objective of skiing aggressively and skiing well and that’s what I did.

"I’ve confirmed I can have good results in both slalom and giant slalom. But for sure I want to win races again before the end of the season."

Finishing three spots back of Grandi in the slalom was Ontario’s Patrick Biggs, a national team rookie with two top-10 World Cup results this season. Biggs got off to a slow start, and was 23 rd after his first run. With nothing to lose in round two, Biggs laid down the fastest second run of the day to move up an incredible 14 positions.

"I turned it around in the second run and managed to ski the fastest run," he said. "We’ve been skiing fast courses lately and to have (Canadian coach) Dusan (Grasic) set the second course was definitely a strong point."