Canadian skiers find new confidence as World Championships near
With several skiers firmly in the top-30 and dipping in and out of the top-10, it was only a matter of time before the Canadian Alpine Ski Team earned a World Cup podium.
Its fitting that the honour went to Melanie Turgeon of Quebec City, the leader of the womens team with 10 years of World Cup experience. Although she struggled with a persistent back injury and sinus condition last season, and was off to a slow start this year, the 26-year-old veteran is feeling, and racing, more like her old self these days.
Leading up to last weekend, she cracked the top 10 for the first time this season with back-to-back sixth place finishes on the World Cup circuit. The first was in the downhill at Lenzerheide, Switzerland on Dec. 12 and the second in the super-G at Cortina dAmpezzo, Italy on Jan. 15.
Two days later, Jan. 17, Turgeon put it all together to finish the super-G course with a time of one minute, 17.23 seconds. The time was good enough for a bronze medal, just 0.28 seconds back of winner Renate Goetschl of Austria, and 0.02 seconds back of her teammate Alexandra Meissnitzer.
"I knew I could be back," said Turgeon. "It was just a matter of time and I proved it to myself.
"Ive been working hard mentally to focus on the right things, keeping my confidence. Ive been working with the team psychologist and our whole World Cup speed group. They all helped me to get back here. Confidence can go a long way."
In 12 th position at the first interval, Turgeon focused on consistency in the technical sections and gained on the leaders in the straight sections.
It was her eighth World Cup medal, but her first podium since March of 2001.
Although she was in a personal medal drought, Turgeon said she wasnt worried about the team.
"I didnt feel any pressure to be back on the podium," she said. "We have a lot of girls on this team who can be on the podium, like Allison (Forsyth), Gen (Simard), Britt (Janyk) and Emily (Brydon). The team is working together."
The Canadian effort was bolstered by Brydons 20 th place finish. Brydon, who is still recuperating from back-to-back knee injuries the previous two seasons, has been steadily improving with every race.
"This is really good for the team," said Brydon. "We really needed it and Mel really deserved it. Weve had the results in training and fast intervals, so it was only a matter of time before one of us was on the podium. But its one thing to believe in ourselves and its another to produce."
Rookie Kelly VanderBeek of Kitchener, Ontario finished 32 nd , and Whistlers Christina Risler was 43 rd .
In the downhill on Jan. 18, Turgeons streak and season nearly came close to an end after a mistake on the first jump. She recovered from an incredibly awkward landing, and somehow kept her cool to finish 10th. Prior to the error she was on pace for her second podium in as many days.
"Were pushing the limit, and its a very dangerous sport," she said. "Some of the girls left by helicopter today a little mistake can cost you your season and your career," said Turgeon, who credited her on-course recovery to her survival instincts.
Goetschl took her second gold medal in as many days, followed by Kristen Clark of the U.S. and Austrias Michaela Dorfmeister.
For Canada, Brydon was 27 th , VanderBeek was 46 th and Risler was 52 nd .
Allison Forsyth of Nanaimo was the top story on Sunday with an eighth place finish in the giant slalom her third top-10 result of the season.
She was in sixth after the first run, but the second run was not quite her style.
"I was really happy with the first run, and to be in the top six after the first run," she said. "The second run was set a little fast, which was a little discouraging. It was set more like a super-G than a GS, but I came in eighth, which is great."
Genevieve Simard of Val-Morin, Quebec, preferred the faster course and moved up several spots into 13 th place.
After the races in Cortina, the womens team had four days off before the events at Maribor, Slovenia this weekend. The week after they will travel to St. Moritz, Switzerland for the FIS World Championships.