Whistler's Manuel Osborne-Paradis didn't have any kind of home-course advantage racing the national downhill championships in Whistler on Saturday, as the race course didn't even exist until last year and the first time he got to race the new Dave Murray National Training Centre on Ptarmigan was two days ago during training.
But Osborne-Paradis figured out the short but winding course quickly, and managed to build a gap of close to three-quarters of a second by the end of the opening race. He finished in 1:01.97, followed by Jeffrey Frisch in 1:02.64 and John Kucera in 1:02.79. Whistler's Morgan Pridy was fourth, Conrad Pridy was sixth and Brodie Seger 20th, to round out the top 30.
While the event was missing two notable national team athletes — Erik Guay and Jan Hudec decided to skip the event to heal from injuries — Osborne-Paradis said the win was still significant for him.
"There's huge significance, especially this year coming back from an injury and skiing well," he said. "This is concrete proof that I'm back. I think it will bode well with sponsors to say in downhill I can win national titles, it's not a problem."
Osborne-Paradis missed most of the last two seasons as a result of injuries, but returned to racing in November. Since then he has been in the top 10 in downhill several times, and finished just off the podium in fourth, improving his bib draws and putting himself back in a position to once again finish on the podium.
Osborne-Paradis was also amazed by the quality of the national training centre.
"This is awesome," he said. "There's so much potential here. The jump they could put at the bottom, and they could put a big jump in the middle... this is top-notch. I wish this was closed all year to people and racers from all over Canada could come here and train speed. It's the perfect distance, it's a fast turnaround and you could easily train 10 to 12 runs a day here and really learn a lot of stuff. It's got a lot of good elements and a lot of ways you could set courses.
"It would be what Copper (Mountain) is to the U.S. team."
Osborne-Paradis said he's more or less completely recovered from his injuries. "There's always nagging stuff at the end of the season, but I've gotten better at keeping up with my due diligence and maintenance. My knee hurt a little this morning, but it doesn't hurt now. My back hurt this morning, but it doesn't hurt now. I have on and off days, but it's really nothing — nothing that a Dusty's Caeser can't lube up anyway."
Next season Osborne-Paradis is committed to getting back to the podium, and has plans to work hard over the summer to make that happen.