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Nor-Am win was unexpected, but according to plan

Victoria Whitney’s Nor-Am gold only the beginning

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Getting out of bed on the wrong side is one thing, but getting to the top of the lift before an important race only to find that you grabbed a teammate’s skis instead of your own race skis is in a whole other league.

With the clock ticking last week, Victoria Whitney raced down, grabbed the right skis and headed back up the mountain at Panorama to make her start in the Nor Am Cup super G.

“I didn’t inspect the top spot at all, I was just going from course reports and what the coaches were telling me, and what I could see from the chair,” said Whitney. “When I came to the finish line I didn’t think I could have won, I was thinking ‘whoops, that’s the last time I miss an inspection.’”

Whitney made her way over to the scoreboard, and was amazed to see that her time was about a second faster than the other girls. She watched the next two skiers come down, Kelly McBroom from the national development team and Alice McKennis of the U.S. — both on the podium that week — while wrapped in a fleece blanket. That way nobody could see her fist pumping as her time held up.

“I was definitely grinning from ear to ear,” she said.

The Dec. 15 race was Whitney’s first podium in a Nor-Am, but then again she did miss almost all of last season after injuring her knee while training in Chile in October.

The previous April she turned heads racing in the Pontiac GMC Canadian championships, where she placed seventh in the downhill behind the top skiers in Canada at the age of 16. She also placed 16 th in the super G.

That earned her a spot on the B.C. Ski Team, who she was training with in Chile in 2007 before her knee injury.

She was in surgery within a week of the accident, and rehabilitating the injury within weeks. She didn’t ski again until last March, mostly freeskiing around Whistler and Blackcomb, but entered a few end-of-season FIS races at Panorama to get her legs back, and finished in the top-10 in every race but one.

“When I was back on snow I thought I was 100 per cent physically, my knee didn’t bother me, but I was still skiing with a brace and I’ve only seen it get better and better since then,” she said. “But I don’t think I was 100 per cent back in race mode until this week. It was pretty gradual, getting back on skis, getting back into training, and then racing some gates with some speed.”

Whitney is the only girl on the B.C. Ski Team this year, but she doesn’t mind. She already knows two of the skiers, brothers Conrad and Morgan Pridy, from the Whistler Mountain Ski Club.

“Training has been awesome. Training with the guys means I get pushed a lot more I think,” she said.

Before the Nor-Am Cup races in Panorama, Whitney also foreran the downhill course for the World Cup in Lake Louise, then stayed around for the Nor-Am Cup events. She was seventh and eighth in the downhill events, but didn’t finish the super G.

Her results at Panorama were the gold medal in super G, a fourth place in super G, and 37 th in super combined.

She has always done better in speed events, she says, but it wasn’t something she planned. “It just kind of happens that way,” she said. “I haven’t done any technical races yet this year, but in the past all my best races were in speed events.”

Getting to the podium took a lot of hard work. Over the summer she fit in two camps at Mt. Hood in Oregon, a camp in Chile with the provincial team, and a month of training at Panorama before the season got underway. In between she fit in as much dryland training as she could, working with coaches and trainers.

She arrived back in Whistler on Wednesday and will get 10 days at home before flying to Collingwood, Ontario in January for the next technical races. Her goals this year are to do well at Nor-Am events (ranking in the top-three overall if possible), racing the World Junior Championships at the end of February, and possibly a start in a Europa Cup event while she’s overseas. By the end of the season she’d like to have a spot on the national development team for next year, and a shot at racing a World Cup.

“Everything is going pretty well,” she said. “It’s hard to have a results-based plan when you come back after a year because you forget who’s still in it, who you’re going to be racing against. So far this year is definitely going to the plan, but I’m really taking it one race at a time. I really didn’t expect to have a win at this point.”

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