Gagnon breaks through for bronze medal 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY PENTAPHOTO/ALPINE CANADA - Hands up Marie-Michele Gagnon (number 13) celebrated her first World Cup medal in the slalom at Are, Sweden on Saturday — Canada's sixth of the season and the second in as many weeks for the women's technical team.
  • photo by pentaphoto/alpine canada
  • Hands up Marie-Michele Gagnon (number 13) celebrated her first World Cup medal in the slalom at Are, Sweden on Saturday — Canada's sixth of the season and the second in as many weeks for the women's technical team.

There was no doubt that Marie-Michele Gagnon would eventually find the World Cup podium, but it was no coincidence that it happened just one week after Erin Mielzynksi's World Cup slalom victory — the first by a Canadian female racer since 1971.

"Finally!" said Gagnon of her bronze medal in Saturday's World Cup slalom. "I've been wanting a podium, it's been a goal for the whole season and I'm so happy it's finally here and having Erin break the ice last weekend, it really shows you can do it from anywhere... there's not a pattern you have to get through to win and you can do it any day."

Gagnon, who was fifth the day Mielzynski won gold, attacked the course in Are, Sweden. She was fourth after the first run and skied a fast second run to break through to the podium.

"I had that feeling, 'It's going to be Are, my first podium is going to be in Are,'" said Gagnon. "I always like the snow here, I always like the place. Now I'm pretty confident in my slalom having placed fifth in Ofterschwang, just so close to the win, and it feels like I'm getting closer and closer to winning. It's pretty nice."

As for Mielzynski, she was less happy with her day in Are after straddling a gate in her first run. Still, she managed to put her own disappointment aside and cheer on her teammate.

Gagnon has been Canada's top female racer all season, racing both speed and technical events. She came into Are with five top 10 finishes and top 30 results in nine other events. She's now ranked 19th overall for all disciplines, as well as 10th in slalom and 12th in combined.

Maria Hoefl-Riesch took the win by just one one-hundredth of a second over Veronika Zuzulova of Slovakia. Gagnon was just 0.1 seconds back of the silver medal.

The day before in the giant slalom, Gagnon placed 25th to lead the Canadian team. Lindsey Vonn of the U.S. won the gold, followed by Federica Brignone of Italy and Viktoria Rebensburg of Germany.

While the women were racing in Sweden, the men's technical team was working to qualify skiers for the World Cup finals at a World Cup in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.

Jean-Philippe Roy was the top Canadian, 25th in Saturday's GS, falling just short of his goal of qualifying for the World Cup finals.

Roy, who returned this season from a knee injury, was disappointed but looked on the bright side.

"I'm pretty happy with my year, pretty constant (and) in the top 30 six times — one of my best years for that," said Roy. "My goal was to be in the top 30 and right now I'm 29.

"I would have loved to go to the finals, that was one of my objectives, but at the same time coming off a year of injuries and last year not skiing the way I wanted to, I'm quite happy with the year the way it turned out to be."

Ted Ligety of the U.S. took the win, followed by Alexis Pinturault of France and Marcel Hirscher of Austria.

In Sunday's men's slalom, Whistler's Mike Janyk and Calgary's Brad Spence were 19th and 26th respectively. Janyk secured his own spot at the finals, while Spence finished 28th — three spots back of the top 25 and inclusion into the World Cup finals.

"It's been a challenging season," said Janyk. "Knowing I was on the bubble today and (making the cut) was a nice feeling.

"My second run was only the third run this year that I've felt confident and really enjoyed it. It's not the season I was looking for — there's been a lot of troubles and injury."

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