Manuel Osborne-Paradis is back.
The Whistler Mountain Ski Club racer hit the FIS World Cup podium for the first time in four years with a second-place finish in the downhill event at Lake Louise, Alta. on Saturday, Nov. 29. It was his 10th World Cup podium finish. He followed that up with a seventh-place showing in the super-G on Sunday, Nov. 30.
In the downhill, Osborne-Paradis and France's Guillermo Fayed tied for second with a time of 1:50.34 minutes, or 0.14 seconds behind Norway's Kjetil Jansrud, who won gold in both events over the weekend.
"The downhill was just a quality run," he said by phone from Colorado. "For me, when I'm able to glide and stay in my tuck a little longer, I really generate a lot more speed."
Hitting double-digits in podium appearances held some significance for Osborne-Paradis, as he'd been stuck on nine since winning silver in Wengen, Switzerland in January 2010. Now that he has another medal in his grasp, he is able to refocus on catching legendary Canadian skiers Erik Guay (22 World Cup podium finishes), Steve Podborski (20), and Ken Read (14) after breaking ties with Thomas Grandi and Rob Boyd, who finished their careers with nine apiece.
"You're always kind of worried when you get your first podium, you're worried it might be the last and then you get another one and it's nice," he said. "Then you win a race and that's significant. This is the next milestone and we'll see where we can take it.
"Obviously, I'm going to be gunning for them (podium finishes) every weekend, so it would be nice to start tacking on a bunch of them."
The podium was the first for Osborne-Paradis after a series of injuries kept him out of competition for nearly all of 2011 and 2012. He maintained he never doubted he'd get back to the heights he'd reached before as he's made slow but sure progress getting his touch back.
"Every year I've felt a little better," he said. "There's a lot of little tense times when things ache when you land off jumps and you're not able to react as fast. There's always going to be aches and pains as you go through the season.
"For now, I'm able to push it and can just put my nose into things. Now that I'm back in the top 15, I'll have good start numbers again."
Osborne-Paradis was also proud of his super-G showing, where he finished 0.51 seconds behind Jansrud. Leading up to the events, two of the three training runs were wiped out because of excess snow.
Osborne-Paradis explained his summer training, which included skiing in steep conditions, paid off. He was also glad to open the season in Alberta, noting he and the mountain naturally got along well. New course-setter Hannes Trinkl, a former World Cup champion racer from Austria, made some changes to the course that Osborne-Paradis said played to his strengths, like completing longer turns.
"Lake Louise is a course that suits my skiing abilities, so it was good to get up the steps," he said. "We have a new course-setter. The last course-setter had been around for years and years, and the new guy wants to make it a little faster and more downhill-esque. For me, that's nice."
The next World Cup race is set for this weekend at Beaver Creek Resort in Colorado, which, as a faster course, Osborne-Paradis acknowledged is less up his alley. After his Dec. 2 training run, he said he missed a couple of gates, but feels he'll be able to get a sense of the course before this weekend's events.
"I think it proves where my skiing is at where I'm able to push the line and see what I can get away with and that's what downhill's all about in training runs," he said.
However, he posted a fourth-place finish at the World Cup stop there in 2013, something he hopes will carry over as he strives for a repeat performance.
"My approach, my skiing, I feel very comfortable where they are right now," he said. "When you're going 120, 130 (km/h), you need that comfort to really feel like you can push the limits."
Whistler's Broderick Thompson made his World Cup debut at Lake Louise, finishing 54th in the super-G after a disqualification in the downhill for missing a gate. He could not be reached for comment before press time.
Whistler's Morgan Pridy, meanwhile, was 17th in the super-G and 54th in the downhill.
Other Canadians in the super-G were: Jan Hudec (ninth), Dustin Cook (13th), Jeff Frisch (42nd), Ben Thomsen (47th), and Tyler Werry (50th).
In the downhill, other Canadians were: Hudec (19th), Thomsen (29th), Cook (36th), and Frisch (44th).
The women's team was also in action in Aspen, Colo.
Marie-Michele Gagnon was eighth in the women's slalom event on Nov. 30. Fellow Canadians Brittany Phelan and Elli Terwiel did not qualify for a second run, while Erin Mielzynski did not complete her first run. Austria's Nicole Hosp won with a time of 1:44.90.
In the giant slalom event the day before, Gagnon was 24th and Marie-Pier Prefontaine was 26th. Fellow Canadians Candace Crawford, Mikaela Tommy, and Erin Mielzynski did not qualify for a second run. Austria's Eva-Maria Brem won with a time of 2:05.97.