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World Cup: Osborne-Paradis wins first World Cup race

Former WMSC skier breaks national team’s World Cup drought, four Canadians in top-10 in downhill



Evidently saving the best for last, B.C.'s Manuel Osborne-Paradis won the first of two World Cup downhill races at Kvitfjell, Norway on Friday, earning Canada's first World Cup medal (aside from two medals won at the World Championships) since early January. It was the sixth World Cup medal for the alpine team this season, which has struggled to match its 14-medal performance of 2007, and 12 medals in 2008.

More amazingly, Osborne-Paradis followed his gold medal performance with a bronze medal in another downhill race the following day. Winning back-to-back medals is a rarity for Canadian skiers, and the feat puts Osborne-Paradis in a select club with Thomas Grandi, Ken Read, Gerry Sorensen, Laurie Graham, and Nancy Greene Raine.

Two medals also launched Osborne-Paradis to fourth place in the downhill standings, more than 10 spots higher than the previous week.

It was also a great weekend for the men's team with four athletes in top-10 each day. On day one, Whistler's Robbie Dixon was fifth, John Kucera seventh and Erik Guay 10th. Michael Walchoffer of Austria picked up the silver medal, 0.31 seconds back of "Manny," while Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway won bronze.

On day two, Dixon was seventh, Kucera eighth and Guay ninth.

"Today is sort of a confirmation that yesterday wasn't a fluke," said men's head coach Paul Kristofic after Osborne-Paradis's second medal performance. "The guys are firing on all cylinders and having a good performance on a hill that does resemble Whistler quite a bit."

Osborne-Paradis collected his first World Cup gold medal last weekend, and his second and third medals of this season. He placed third at Val Gardena, Italy in December. The Whistler Mountain Ski Club alumnus is now the top-ranked Canadian overall.

"This year I knew I could win. I have been skiing well and I knew I could win. And that is the first step," said Osborne-Paradis. "(The win) is more of a relief. I have been skiing great. I'm skiing better than I ever have before from the start of the season until now, I have just had bad luck.

"It seems that every time I have been on the podium one of these guys just sneaks in front of me. It feels good to sneak in front of them."

As for Dixon, it was his best downhill results since he joined the national team full time last season, finishing just 0.14 seconds back of the podium on the first day of downhill racing. His best result to date remains a fourth place finish in the super G last season.

The team missed out on a chance to add more medals in Norway, as weather forced the cancellation of a super G race.

The women's technical team also raced, at Ofterschwang, Germany. In the giant slalom Genevieve Simard was the top Canadian in 14th place, with Marie-Michele Gagnon 29th.

In the slalom Gagnon placed eighth, her best result this season.

Canadians on top at freestyle championships
After starting the week at Inawashiro, Japan with two world championship medals in ski cross, the bar was set high for the rest of the Canadian freestyle team.

In aerials, two Canadian men reached the podium with overall World Cup champion Steve Omischl second and Warren Shouldice third. The win went to Ryan St. Onge of the U.S. Also cracking the top-10 was Kyle Nissen in 10th.

Omischl was hoping for the win, but took the silver medal well.

"I had two really, really nice jumps and I got beat," said Omischl. "It's tough to take, but I don't know if I can jump much better.

"It's an honour any time you're on the podium at the world championships."

Omischl should know, with five World Championship medals to his credit, including a gold in 2005.

Shouldice was a bigger story in many ways, winning his first ever championship medal with a performance that saw him go from ninth after the first round to third at the finish. He was also making his comeback after being injured while jumping in Quebec in January.

"It's sweet redemption," he said. "It's the best I've ever done on snow.

"I'm just really proud of myself, coming back from that crash. I'm still really, really, really sore... from my belly button to my neck."

In women's aerials, Amber Peterson of Thunder Bay posted her best world championship result, a fourth, following Chinese jumpers Nina Li and Mengtao Xu. Jacqui Cooper of Australia was third.

Next up was the ski halfpipe contest. Whistler's Sarah Burke was injured at X-Games and was not on hand to compete, but it was still a good day for the team with 16-year-old Megan Gunning of Calgary placing second in the women's event, between Virginie Faivre of Switzerland and Jennifer Hudak of the U.S.

On the men's side, Vernon's Justin Dorey also won a silver medal, with Kevin Rolland of France picking up gold, and Xavier Bertoni, also French, winning bronze.

Mike Riddle placed fifth in the men's event, despite spending the night in the hospital after a crash in training. Rosalind Groenwoud was 11th on the women's side.

The athletes in halfpipe are hoping that their sport will be included in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Socchi, Russia, opposite snowboard halfpipe.

Last up was the mogul championship, where Canada picked up medals seven, eight and nine on the week.

In women's moguls Jennifer Heil placed second, between Aiko Uemura of Japan and Nikoa Sudova of Czech Republic. Pemberton's Kristi Richards was fifth.

On the men's side Vincent Marquis came away with the bronze medal behind Patrick Deneen of the U.S. and Tapio Luusua of Finland. Maxime Gingras and Alexandre Bilodeau were fifth and eighth respectively.

In dual moguls Heil was 10th and Nathalie Bazin 12th on the women's side, while World Cup champion Alexandre Bilodeau redeemed himself with a win. Vincent Marquis was fourth, Maxime Gingras 11th and Philippe Marquis 12th.

Jae-Woo Choi, 15, a member of the Whistler Blackcomb Freestyle Ski Club, took part in events competing for Korea, and placed 22nd in dual moguls and 26th in moguls.

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