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Speed skiers solidify Sochi spots

Osborne-Paradis, Guay, Hudec post top-12 finishes at Lake Louise to complete Olympic qualification

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Pridy close Whistler's Conrad Pridy came up just short of earning World Cup points at Lake Louise, finishing 32nd in the Nov. 30 downhill.

photo by malcolm Carmichael / courtesy of alpine canada

As the World Cup alpine season was about to kick off, Manuel Osborne-Paradis said he wouldn't be thinking much about the Olympics until the New Year. Now, he and two other teammates truly won't have to.

Osborne-Paradis, a Whistler Mountain Ski Club alum, and teammates Erik Guay and Jan Hudec all qualified for Canada's Olympic team by posting top-12 finishes over the weekend at Lake Louise, which hosted the first World Cup downhill and super-G races on Saturday, Nov. 30 and Sunday, Dec. 1.

Guay earned his way onto the squad headed to Sochi with an eighth-place finish in Saturday's downhill, while Hudec and Osborne-Paradis completed their qualification by finishing 10th and 12th, respectively, in the super-G.

Each of the three skiers needed just one top-12 finish in World Cup competition to secure their spots at the Olympics.

Osborne-Paradis said he and Hudec were glad to punch their tickets to the Games on the first weekend of the season, particularly after both had frustrating downhill races on Saturday — Hudec finished 22nd and Manny placed 28th. Osborne-Paradis was fourth out of the start hut in that race and encountered soft conditions and flat light for his run.

"Jan and I drove to the hill together today and we were like, 'Man, that sucked yesterday. I can't believe we didn't get that spot yesterday,'" said the 29-year-old. "We weren't going to really enjoy ourselves until we had that spot ... I'm really glad we both got in there."

Osborne-Paradis made a charge into the top 12 from his late start position, as the nine-time World Cup medallist wore bib No. 45 on Sunday.

"I didn't actually think I would be top 12 today, that's for sure. That was a good surprise," he said. "Now I can go into (the next races at) Beaver Creek with that top-30 spot (on the start list) ... and know I can compete in those races and compete every weekend."

Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal won Sunday's super-G, while Austrian skiers Matthias Mayer and Georg Streitberger were also on the podium. Guay finished 18th and Whistler's Morgan Pridy had the next-best Canadian result, placing 41st.

Other Canadians in the field included Benjamin Thomsen (45th), Whistler's Conrad Pridy (52nd), Jeffrey Frisch (53rd) and Dustin Cook (58th).

Italy's Dominik Paris captured the first World Cup downhill of the Olympic year on Saturday, holding off Austria's Klaus Kroell by just .03 seconds for the victory. France's Adrien Theaux finished third.

Conrad Pridy was agonizingly close to the points on Saturday, finishing 32nd. It was the best result of his World Cup career at a venue other than Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where he's earned top-30 results each of the past two seasons.

"I thought it was really good, I was really happy with it," said Pridy, who started 57th in the downhill. "I was hoping it'd be a little faster. Everything I wanted to do I did, and I felt pretty fast the whole way. I'm confident in my skiing."

The younger Morgan Pridy, racing at Lake Louise for the first time, finished 45th. Frisch placed 35th and Thomsen was 44th on Saturday. Whistler's Robbie Dixon was with the team at Lake Louise and took the downhill training runs but ended up being a forerunner at the event.

Canadian women continue to impress

The Canadian women's team put together more solid performances over the weekend as their World Cup campaign continued at Beaver Creek, Colo.

Canada had three skiers record top-20 finishes in Sunday's giant slalom, led by a ninth-place result from Marie-Pier Préfontaine. Marie-Michele Gagnon finished 13th, while Erin Mielzynski wound up 16th.

It's been a great start to the winter for a women's technical team that hasn't exactly taken the World Cup circuit by storm in recent seasons.

"In my whole time with the team, we've never had three girls in the second run of a giant slalom," said Préfontaine. "One of the coaches said it was the first time since 2006."

Ontario's Larisa Yurkiw had an outstanding super-G race at Beaver Creek on Saturday, finishing 15th despite starting 43rd. The result gave the reigning Canadian downhill champ reason to celebrate, as Yurkiw was dropped from the national team in the offseason but has continued her race career independently with coach Kurt Mayr.

"Today was a huge sense of relief and some validation for me and my coach in what we are trying to do," said Yurkiw. "It feels like a victory. We are growing something wonderful."

Swiss skier Lara Gut won the downhill and super-G races in Colorado, making it three consecutive wins to start her season. Sweden's Jessica Lindell-Vikarby edged U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin for the giant slalom win.

The men's and women's tours now swap places for this weekend, with the women racing two downhills and a super-G starting Friday, Dec. 6 at Lake Louise, and the men going to Beaver Creek for speed races and a GS.

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