While the mens team showed signs of improvement on the World Cup circuit last weekend, after a hard couple of years at the bottom of the scoreboard, the womens team uncharacteristically failed to qualify even a single skier for the finals of a World Cup slalom.
To date, only four Canadian men have qualified for the Olympics, compared to six women with the recent addition of Anne-Marie Lefrancois after finishing 12 th in the Dec. 1 downhill at Lake Louise.
The action started, albeit slowly, in Val dIsere, France on Dec. 7 with a mens super G. Austrias Stefan Eberharter finished just 0.06 seconds ahead of Didier Cuche of Switzerland. Third went to Silvano Beltrametti. The Canadian skiers failed to finish.
In the downhill on Dec. 8, Eberharter was once again the man to beat. Italys Kurt Suzlenbacher was the man who almost beat him, finishing 0.17 seconds back. Michael Walchhofer, another Austrian was third.
In their first World Cup of the season, Canadians Edi Podivinsky and Darin McBeath ended the day tied for 41 st .
The low point of the day came when Beltrametti lost control and crashed through the nets and broke his back. That afternoon doctors confirmed that he was paralyzed from the chest down.
The following day was better for the Canadian skiers, with Thomas Grandi and Jean-Philippe Roy, finishing 15 th and 13 th respectively in a giant slalom.
"Second run, I just went and fought, skied the course like in training and I did it," said the 22-year-old Roy. It was his third top 30 result of the season, including a 21 st in the slalom at Aspen, Colorado, and a 26 th in the giant slalom in Soelden, Austria.
"Having cracked the top 30 before, this is such an important step to be so close to the top 10. Its awesome."
Roy has already qualified for the Salt Lake City Olympics, after finishing eighth in the slalom and 10th in the downhill at the world champions last season, just his second year competing at the top level.
Grandi, who has missed the bulk of the last few years with injuries, was also excited about his finish.
"This is an incredible boost," he said. "Training has been great the whole last month. Today I put in two solid runs and Im really excited. This is something we can really build on now.
"Weve got some very demanding races ahead but its going really well. Were going in the right direction."
American Bode Miller took the gold medal in the Val dIsere GS, edging French skier Frederic Covilli by 0.02 seconds. Eberharter was third, earning his third medal in three days.
The Canadian women, racing in a slalom in Sestriere, Italy, didnt have as good a day. Genevieve Simard, Allison Forsyth, Britt Janyk and Anna Prchal all failed to qualify for the second run. Simard came the closest, finishing just 0.35 seconds out of the top 30 in her first run.
Anja Paerson of Sweden was the top woman, followed by Tanja Poutiainen of Finland and Sonja Nef of Switzerland.
The Canadian women will have an opportunity to redeem themselves at Val dIsere in giant slalom and super-G events from Dec. 14 to 16.