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Team Canada gets on a role

A new year has begun, the holidays are over, and it’s back to work on the ski hill.

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The holidays were great. Quick, but great. I spent the time in Europe, as did a good part of the Canadian team.

I had three days off at Christmas, which was nice, and then another three at New Year’s. It went by fast and even I’m not quite sure exactly where the time went!

There has definitely been a lot going on in the world of ski racing and I think I will begin with Thomas Grandi’s wins in a pair of giant slaloms before Christmas. His first win came in Alta Badia. I’m sure most of you saw the results in the paper, but here’s what we were doing on that day:

The women’s technical team was in Innsbruck, Austria that morning and were travelling to St. Moritz, Switzerland. We watched the first run on TV and then decided to drive only part of the way before stopping to watch the second run.

While we were on the road we couldn’t find a place to stop that had a TV. So, instead we called our coach Jim Pollock, who was already in St. Moritz, to give us the play-by-play action. We were in two vans driving on a mountain pass, waiting to hear how Thomas would finish.

The last to leave the start in the second run was Kalle Pallander of Norway. He was ahead at the interval and then suddenly he was off of the course…. Thomas had won the first giant slalom of his career. Well, we started honking the horns, yelling out the windows, then more honking, more yelling. There was absolutely nobody else on the road, which was a shame because it would have been funny to see us, and all our excitement. And, to top it off, JP Roy had the best result of his career with a fifth place finish. It was an exciting day!

That result seemed to get things rolling for the men’s team. In the following race in Flachau, Austria, Thomas came through with another win, also just as exciting to watch. In the slalom the following day the men had three qualify for a second run – my brother, Ryan Semple and Thomas.

The best part about seeing Thomas win those races has been seeing him work so hard over the years. He struggled to get results a few years ago, and now has started to perform at his potential. It’s absolutely inspirational.

He is also a great teammate who shares his experience with the younger guys. They will start to believe that they too can finish in the top group of racers and their confidence will grow.

The most recent races this past weekend also saw top finishes from the Canadian team. The men were in Chamonix, France and the women in Santa Catarina, Italy. On Saturday we had five qualify for the second GS run and on the men’s side there were three starting in the top 30. Overall it proved to be an exciting day.

I had tears in my eyes as I watched with joy as my teammates Genevieve and Allison stood up on the podium together. On the men’s side Jeff Hume, a Whistler local, had an amazing downhill run and skied to sixth place; the best result of his career. Manuel Osborne-Paradis also had his best result, finishing 12 th overall, and Eric Guay was right behind him. Wow, another exciting day!

Last week marked the halfway point in the season. The night before the GS race our coaches sat us down and told us that we needed to start to produce top results. The world championships are just around the corner and there is no better time than now to get things going.

Jim Pollock has been working very hard with us everyday towards that goal. Our training is very focused and well planned and he challenges us to always strive towards our best. He is an excellent coach and puts so much passion into his work everyday, and it’s been great to work with someone like that. A lot of the credit goes to Jim for providing us with a great program and a great support staff to work with.

This coming weekend there are more races, both men’s and women’s. I am taking a brief break for five days and the next race for me will be a night slalom in Zagreb, Croatia.

Keep watching the results, the year is already proving to be a new one for the Canadian team. Hope your holidays in Whistler were great, though I hear a little more snow is needed.

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