The Paralympics are still a year away, but the Canadian Para-Alpine Ski Team is well on its way to winning medals in every discipline and classification.
Last week Whistler hosted the IPC World Cup finals, with Canadians winning enough medals and IPC points to win the Nations Cup title for the first time in the program's history.
"It's been a great season for us, our best ever, and it was extra-special to come back home, to the 2010 venue, and earn the points that put us over the top," said Sophie Pilon, administrative and public relations coordinator for the Canadian Para-Alpine Ski Team.
"I can't speak for any of the athletes, but the pressure is always on when you're competing at home, or competing on the Paralympic venue, and our athletes stepped up to the challenge. Most of the athletes I talk to are very comfortable with the hill and they're looking forward to the Games."
Going into the Whistler events, Canada was just seven points behind Austria for the Nations Cup title. A strong performance at home put Canada in first place with 5,685 points, followed by Austria with 5,063 and the U.S. with 4,651.
In the opening downhill event, standing skier Lauren Woolstencroft and visually impaired skier Viviane Forest (with guide Lindsay Debou), each placed first in their category, winning the overall World Cup titles in the process. Josh Dueck, proving his gold medal at the world championships in downhill wasn't a fluke, also won a gold medal.
Other solid contenders missed the podium, with world champion sitting skier Kimberly Joines, standing skier Morgan Perrin, and visually impaired skier Chris Williamson going off course.
There were also some nice surprises. Sam Daniels, who got his start with the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program, was fourth in the sitting category, while Whistler's Matt Hallat placed seventh in the tough standing downhill category.
Three Canadians were in the top-10 in the women's standing downhill race, with Karolina Wisniewska fifth, Whistler's Arly Fogarty sixth and Andrea Dziewior eighth.
For Woolstencroft, who has probably won more medals than any active Paralympic athlete, it's a challenge to stay on top of the sport.
"There is good competition in my category, overall there are good girls out there and they are pushing me every day so that always keeps me on my toes," she said. "The race was rougher and bumpier than yesterday, but it was faster than I felt good."
The course was extremely fast, even by able-bodied standards. Competitors were getting air off rollers as sit skiers broke the 110 km/h mark, and standing skiers were over 130 km/h in some sections.
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