It was only a matter of time before a member of the Canadian Alpine Ski Team landed a World Cup podium, leaving a question of who, where, when.
The who was Erik Guay and the where and when was the downhill course at Val Gardena, Italy on Saturday, Dec. 15. Guay placed third in the race in 1:29.06, behind American Steven Nyman (1:28.82) and Rok Perko of Slovenia (1:29.01). It was Guay’s 18th career World Cup medal, and 12th medal in downhill — a tally that doesn’t include his gold medal at the FIS World Ski Championships in 2011.
Manuel Osborne-Paradis cracked the top 10 for the first time this season in seventh place, signifying that his comeback after missing almost two years with injuries is well underway. His goal this season was to rack up top 30 results in speed events to steadily improve his rankings and improve his bib draw by the end of the season in order to put himself back in a position to win medals. He started the day with bib number 38, although he wasn’t the only skier to make a huge leap from the back — Nyman and Perko wore bibs number 39 and 35 respectively.
The reason was the weather. With the snow and low visibility, organizers at one point were considering making two runs of the bottom section of the course, and in the end shortened the course a little bit. Guay raced in some of the worst weather conditions, while Osborne-Paradis, Nyman, Perko and others benefitted from some clearing in the afternoon.
“It’s an outdoor sport, so you know these things can happen,” said Guay, who looked like he had won the race at one point. “In my head I won today, and I think I was the best skier out there by the numbers — that’s not to take anything away from Steve or Rok, but there was not much more I could have done other than have a flawless run out there… I’m just happy not to be fourth really.”
Guay acknowledged that he’s usually a late starter on the tour, and was excited to get on the podium before Christmas and to break the ice for himself and the team. He talked about last season’s medal rush, where he started things off with a silver medal at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany and he and his teammates combined for three additional medals in Chamonix, France and Sochi, Russia — including Jan Hudec’s first gold in downhill and Benjamin Thomsen’s first career World Cup medal.
“Hopefully the same thing happens (this season),” said Guay. “Now with Manny back on track — he’s probably back in the top 30 and a higher start number will help tremendously — and Jan is skiing well and all the guys are firing on all cylinders, we’ll have a competitive team heading into the New Year.”
As for Osborne-Paradis, he was actually leading the splits at one point before he caught an edge in one section and lost his momentum. He told coaches that he felt he could have won the day without that mistake, and is doubly determined for the next race.
Jan Hudec and Benjamin Thomsen had an off day, placing 35th and 49th respectively. Whistler’s Conrad Pridy was 59th.
There was also a super G event at Val Gardena. Hudec led the team in that event in 12th place, with Guay just two spots back in 14th and Osborne-Paradis a solid 18th. Thomsen finished just outside the top 30 in 32nd, Kucera was 34th and Dustin Cook 56th.
The men’s speed team will race next at Bormio, Italy after Christmas with the first training runs taking place on Dec. 27.
While the men are in Italy, the women’s speed team was at Val d’Isere, France for a pair of races. In the opening downhill, Lara Gut of Switzerland placed first, followed by Leanne Smith of the U.S. and Nadja Kamer of Switzerland. Larisa Yurkiw did not finish her run for Canada.
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