The Canadian Alpine Ski Team finished the last weekend with a few points, but a medal would have been better.
The women's speed team — decimated by injuries and retirements — made a comeback of sorts at Lake Louise Winterstart.
America Lindsey Vonn dominated as usual, while a few of her teammates stepped up as well to make it a North American victory of sorts. Vonn won the first downhill in 1:52.61, almost two seconds faster than teammate Stacey Cook (1:54.34). Marie Hoefl-Riesch of Germany and Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein tied for third in 1:54.35.
Larisa Yurkiw, returning from injury, was the only Canadian in the field, placing 44th on the day.
In the second downhill, Vonn won again — surprising no one — this time edging teammate Stacey Cook by 0.52 seconds. Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden won the bronze.
Yurkiw was 47th for Canada in that race.
Vonn made it a hattrick in the super G race — again, surprising no one — with another win. American Julia Mancuso picked up the silver medal from that race, giving the U.S. Ski Team six out of nine medals for the weekend. This time Anna Fenninger of Austria placed third.
Yurkiw finished in the points this time around, placing 25th overall, while teammate Marie-Michele Gagnon was 28th.
"I felt better today," said Yurkiw. "I felt like it was a good opportunity and (a start position of) 33rd is a lot nicer number." She started 51st in both downhill events.
"I think I made some mistakes because I was going for it, so I took a bit of a time sacrifice, but I'm happy with my result."
Yurkiw is one of the only women racing speed this year for Canada with Gagnon and Marie-Pier Prefontaine focusing mainly on technical events. Whistler's Madison McLeish has been getting in a few races but is also coming back from an injury. Kelly VanderBeek is also back on skis after being sidelined with a knee injury in 2009, but is taking it slow.
The big news at Lake Louise, as always, is Vonn. She earned the first big results of her career at Lake Louise in 2004 and has never looked back. She now has a string of seven wins at Lake Louise Winterstart dating back to 2010, and has a total medal haul of 14 gold medals, five silver medals and one bronze — 20 medals — in nine years at the venue.
Her final super G win at Winterstart also represented her career 100th World Cup medal (56th gold), further securing her reputation as one of the most dominating female skiers of all time.
Even more impressive, Vonn was hospitalized the previous week for three days as a result of acute stomach pains, and has been on painkillers since then.
She has also been in spotlight recently after attempting to race in the men's downhill at Lake Louise — a bid that the International Ski Federation (FIS) turned down, despite the support of event organizers at Lake Louise and from other athletes on the tour.
Hudec leads team at Beaver Creek
The Canadian men's speed team had a better showing at Beaver Creek, Colorado with several team members earning points, but they were unable to collect their first medal of the season.
Erik Guay was 15th in the opening downhill race to lead the team, and was on pace to podium before he made a critical mistake.
"I had a good top and where I've been struggling on the pitch, I skied much better," said Guay. "But (lower on the course) I hit it square and got really low. I dropped 1.10 seconds in a 17-second split. Without that one split I would probably have been top five."
Ben Thomsen tied for 16th on the day. While this is only his second year with the senior men's team, he knows he could have placed higher.
"I had some good sections, but in a very key section I pinched myself off and hit some bumps, causing me to lose my outside ski (edge)," he said.
"It pulled me off my inspected line and way low, below the optimal race line. Unfortunately, this was just before the bottom half of the course, with no way to make up speed again...
"I am happy to end up with a result like 16th but I was expecting a lot more from myself."
Jan Hudec placed 24th on the day, while Whistler's Manuel Osborne-Paradis — who earned his first points at Lake Louise the previous weekend since returning from injury — he also expected more than his tie for 28th.
"Coming from the back, it's good," he said. "Coming from where I'm coming from, I'm just not skiing as well as I should be. I really wish I had a top 20 here. It was (close) — I'm four-tenths away from Erik and he's 14th."
Whistler's Conrad Pridy was 49th and John Kucera 58th.
Christof Innerhofer of Italy was first in the race, followed by Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud of Norway.
The Canadians stepped it up a notch for the super G, with Jan Hudec moving up to 10th and Erik Guay to 11th. John Kucera was 41st and Ben Thomsen 49th. Dustin Cook was on pace to earn points for the second straight weekend but went off course near the bottom.
Matteo Marsaglia of Italy was first, followed by Aksel Lund Svindal and Hannes Reichelt of Austria.
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