With one of the youngest and most aggressive rosters on the World Cup circuit the Canadian Alpine Ski Team is the team of tomorrow. Today, however, still belongs the veterans, as seen in last weekend’s downhill and super giant slalom events at Lake Louise Winterstart.
The training runs suggested promising results for the Canadian skiers. Erik Guay, 24, who won a silver medal in the Lake Louise downhill in 2003, posted the second-fastest time on day two of training, missing the top sport by just one one-hundredth of a second. He was also posting the second-fastest split times in the third and final training run on Friday, Nov. 25 when he made the conscious decision to pull back to try and get an optimal start position. His plan was to start Saturday in the top-10, and finish in the top-five.
On race day Guay was a little too aggressive heading into the first corner and had a hard time finding the same groove as the two previous days. He finished 17 th , 1.81 seconds back of the winner, Franz Strobl of Austria. Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway was second, while Marco Buechel of Liechtenstein was third.
Just 0.15 seconds separated the top three, and there was less than a second between Strobl and 13 th place Andreas Schifferer, on a course where every hundredth of a second counted. For Guay, who had a solid run, it came down to making a few small mistakes on a course where you had to be perfect.
"I am disappointed with my run but I was going for a podium finish, there’s no doubt about that," he said. "I tried to let it all hang out and maybe I took too many risks."
John Kucera of Calgary, 21, also managed to crack the top-30, finishing 25 th . With another top-30 result, Kucera met the Rising Star criteria to qualify for a spot in the Olympic downhill in February.
"I had a great run today and it makes me very excited about tomorrow’s super-G," he said Saturday. "This is the track that I know best and I had a really good time."
Two Whistler Mountain Ski Club alumni were in the field on Saturday. Manuel Osborne-Paradis of North Vancouver (now Invermere) was 38 th . The course got a little bumpier over the course of the day, and Osborne-Paradis said: "I got bounced around out there a lot today. I lost a lot of speed just before the flat and that cost me."
Whistler’s Jeff Hume, who is known for his aggressive, all-or-nothing style, went off course in the middle of his run.
The other Canadian skiers were Calgary’s Brad Spence and Francois Bourque from New Richmond, Quebec, who were 42 nd and 43 rd respectively.
In Sunday’s super-G, Norway’s Aksel Svindal, 23, was the exception to the veteran domination of the World Cup. He took the win, his first on the World Cup, by edging out Austria’s Benjamin Raich by 0.07 seconds. Daron Rahlves of the U.S. was third.
Erik Guay missed the top five once again, but still managed to finish 11 th , 0.9 seconds back of Svindal’s time, and qualify for a quota spot in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in super-G. He had already qualified in downhill, but was hoping to race in both speed events.
"I had a good, conservative run and I am much happier with today’s race than yesterday’s. I’m trying to build on every race," he said. "I hope to be able to peak at the Olympics in February.
The next best Canadian was Francois Bourque, who was 26 th . Jeff Hume recorded a career best 39 th place.
The next stop for the men’s speed team is Beaver Creek, Colorado this weekend for downhill, slalom, giant slalom and super-G events.
Lake Louise will host women’s downhill and super-G events this weekend, which will be followed by a series of Nor Am and FIS races.
With time counting down the Canadian Alpine Ski Team still has a long way to go to reach the goal of qualifying 22 athletes for the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, or double the number that qualified in 2002. To date the list of Canadians who have qualified include Thomas Grandi, Genevieve Simard, Emily Brydon and Erik Guay in two events each, and Allison Forsyth, Francois Bourque, John Kucera, Jean-Philippe Roy, Patrick Biggs and Brigitte Acton in one event each.