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Turgeon sixth in snowy downhill

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Guay continues to impress

While most athletes would be ecstatic with a sixth place finish in a World Cup downhill, Canada’s Melanie Turgeon was more relieved than excited by her best race of the year on Dec. 21 – in her view, this is exactly where she belongs.

"I’m finally finding my rhythm again," said the 26-year-old from Beauport, Quebec.

The conditions were less than ideal for the third downhill stop on the women’s World Cup tour at Lenzerheide, Switzerland, as a snow-storm moved in and hindered visibility. The races went on as usual, however, with a brief hold after racer 33.

Turgeon started the day with bib 28 after finishing third in training. Because the top-30 racers run in reverse order in the finals, she was the third skier out of the gate.

While the course conditions were better for the first runners, the visibility was not.

"I’m really happy with my race today, considering I started in the middle of the snow storm. I almost think I overdid it – I couldn’t see the track or the ground, but I went for it," she said.

The race went to Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria, followed by teammate Brigitte Obermoser and Kristen Clark of the U.S.

Anyone who doubts the effect an Olympics can have on athletics should follow the American skiers this season. Team USA is consistently putting athletes on the podium and in the top-10 on the World Cup this season, something that has been rare in the past few years.

While the women were in Switzerland, the men’s downhill races were taking place at Val Gardena, Italy.

Nobody expects much from a 21-year-old World Cup rookie, but nobody told that to Erik Guay of Mont Tremblant, Quebec. In the past two weeks he has earned two top-30 finishes in downhill competitions, finishing 28 th in France two weekends ago, and 25 th in Italy last week. He also earned a 27 th place finish at the Val Gardena super-G.

Because of changing snow and light conditions, the first racers actually had a slower course than the last group down, and Guay maintained a lead of close to two seconds ahead of the other top-15 starters. He was 29 th in training the day before, which made him the third racer down the course on race day, Dec. 21.

As the track got faster, he saw his lead diminish and eventually disappear. Still, at the end of the day he was just 1.66 seconds back of the lead.

"Erik demolished the field around him, and was close to two seconds ahead of the top 15 starters today. He hung in there quite a while, but the track really got much, much faster after the top-15, with better light. It got fast as the top guys were coming down, so Erik’s 25 th place is pretty good in those conditions," said coach Paul Kristofic.

Vincent Lavoie of Cap Rouge, Quebec, was the next best Canadian in 39 th . Whistler’s Jeff Hume, who is still recovering from a crash in France, finished 48 th .

World Cup events led right up to Christmas, with a giant slalom on Dec. 22. They resume on Dec. 28 with women’s events in Austria and another men’s downhill in Italy.

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