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Slam Dunc

Whistler skier earns back-to-back ski cross wins to highlight five-medal weekend for Canadians



Shortly after Whistler's Dave Duncan clinched a berth in the 2014 Olympics with back-to-back wins, he received a message from an official with Own The Podium.

"I got an email that said, basically, 'From the outhouse to the penthouse,'" laughed Duncan.

"He put it pretty well."

The 31-year-old went into the weekend double at San Candido, Italy, with no World Cup ski cross victories to his credit. He left the venue as a two-time winner, the World Cup leader and as a confirmed Olympian for Sochi this winter.

Duncan secured victories 24 hours apart on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 21 and 22, while fellow Whistler skier Marielle Thompson picked up a women's silver on Sunday to headline a five-medal weekend for the Canadian ski cross team.

"It's pretty hard to sum up everything that's happened on this weekend," Duncan said after Sunday's win. "It's an incredible feeling and I struggle for words to truly describe how much this means to me. To get that first win and then not have to wait 24 hours to get a second one — this is the stuff you dream of."

Calgary's Brady Leman reached both men's finals as well and left Italy with a bronze medal from Saturday and fourth-place finish on Sunday, while Kelowna's Kelsey Serwa hit the women's podium in second place on Saturday.

Duncan said his starts were "consistently fast" throughout the weekend while the San Candido course catered to his strengths. He beat out Austria's Andreas Matt and Germany's Daniel Bohnacker for the win in Sunday's final. Swiss skier Alex Fiva was sandwiched on the podium between Duncan and Leman on Saturday.

Duncan, who was supposed to compete in the 2010 Olympics, but broke his collarbone in a training crash just two days before his event was scheduled to begin, said he was relieved to have his ticket to Sochi punched before Christmas.

"It'll definitely take a lot of pressure off for those last three qualifying races in January," he said.

The Canadian men were coming off an abysmal performance at Val Thorens, France, from the previous weekend, when none of the team's skiers were able to qualify for race heats. Chris Del Bosco was the only racer placing in the top 50 of the timed runs there.

"France was a tough one to swallow for the guys," said Duncan. "But at the same time, maybe it was a wake-up call that got us ready for this weekend. (That had) never happened in Canadian history before and I hope it never happens again, but I think we came back strong from it and proved that we're still a force to be reckoned with."

In other Canadian results, Tristan Tafel was 18th and Del Bosco 29th on Saturday, while Louis-Pierre Hélie placed 10th and Del Bosco was 15th on Sunday. Duncan now holds a nine-point lead over Matt in the World Cup rankings and Leman sits third.

Despite winning Saturday's small final to finish fifth, Thompson surrendered her lead in the women's standings to Switzerland's Fanny Smith. She grabbed the World Cup leader's bib right back on Sunday with her silver-medal finish.

"Today was awesome. I won every start and really showed where my skiing is at," said the 2012 Crystal Globe champ. "I got a fast start in the final and I was leading probably to halfway when Katrin (Mueller of Switzerland) came in with a lot of speed and got me on the inside of a straightaway. I made a little bit of ground up on Katrin but in the end it wasn't enough."

Germany's Heidi Zacher finished third in Sunday's final.

There could have been another podium for Thompson on Saturday if not for some bad luck. The 21-year-old was leading her semifinal before losing a ski and being relegated to the small final.

Thompson said there's a different feeling for her being the World Cup leader this winter compared to the 2011-12 season, when she was still in her sophomore year on the circuit and made a late push for the Globe.

"When I became the leader two years ago, it was really at the end (of the season) and I didn't really know if I would get it," she said. "So it's very different. I'm feeling a lot more confident... I'm glad that I've started this season off with a strong suit.

"It's a really close race for the leader bib so I'm glad that I can compete with these top girls and have it again."

Smith and Mueller are tied for second in the standings, 14 points back.

Serwa also moved closer to confirming her place at the Olympics with her weekend results. Like Thompson, she also ended the event at San Candido with second- and fifth-place finishes after winning Sunday's small final, moving her to fourth in the Cup rankings.

B.C. skier Georgia Simmerling had a decent weekend of results, placing sixth and 22nd over the two days. Canadian teammate Danielle Sundquist notched a 24th-place finish on Saturday.

The squad has returned home for the holidays and resumes World Cup racing on Jan. 10 at Megeve, France.


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