By Andrew Mitchell
Underdogs have always fared well at the Pontiac GMC Canadian Championships, and this year was no exception.
One of the main reasons could be that members of the national team are usually tired out from four months of travelling and take the event less seriously, while up and coming skiers make the most of the opportunity to showcase their talents to national team coaches.
Whatever the reason, the 2007 championships opened with Banff’s Paul Stutz and Canmore’s Shona Rubens picking up the gold medals in slalom — as well as the $5,000 first prize.
Not that you could call either skier inexperienced, but Stutz came in the championships ranked 52 nd in slalom, behind a raft of skiers that includes Michael Janyk (ranked seventh), Thomas Grandi (ranked 18 th ), and Patrick Biggs (ranked 51 st ). He is, however, the reigning combined national champion, proving that he’s equally comfortable on the slalom course as he is on the downhill.
Stutz was excited by his win. “It’s a great feeling to earn the Canadian slalom championship today, it means a lot,” he said. “The volunteers did a great job getting the course ready and I was able to put two solid runs together.
“It’s a huge step any time you medal at any level, whether it’s Pontiac GMC Cup, Nor-Ams or whatever. This win today is an important stepping stone for me in the slalom and hopefully a podium on the World Cup is not too far away.”
Grandi, wearing retro clothing in likely the last slalom of his career, picked up the silver medal after a quick second run, while American skier Warner Nickerson picked up the bronze medal.
Michael Janyk, the defending champion and Canada’s top slalom skier this season, went off course on his second run.
For her part, Rubens is better known for speed events, and had no slalom World Cup results to her credit this year. Overall she placed 98 th with her best results in downhill and combined, but qualified for a World Cup spot in slalom this season by finishing second in the Nor Am Cup standings.
“I am totally stoked,” she said. “It’s a huge honour and a great result for me against such great competition.”
Rubens sat in third after the first run, but had the fastest second run to move into first. Second place went to Jana Gantnerova, a Slovakian skier, while Emily Brydon of Fernie picked up the bronze.
Brigitte Acton, Canada’s top slalom racer this season, has not competed since February after being sidelined with an injury.
Several Whistler athletes also participated.
Victoria Whitney, a J1 (age 15 to 16) from the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, placed a respectable 24 th , while J2 (17 to 18) Julia Murray also cracked the top 30 in 29 th place. Katrina Dekur was 33 rd , Jennifer Mah 35 th , Shannon Smith 36 th and Nadia Samer 37 th .
On the men’s side, where half the field did not finish, Whistler skiers to cross the finish line were senior racer Robbie Dixon in 10 th place, J2 Simon Mannella 29 th , James McLean 31 st , Stanislas Rey 32 nd , and Scott Hume in 36 th place.
The racing continues through the week, wrapping up on March 28.