The men's World Cup slalom season didn't go according to plan this past weekend with none of the skiers qualifying for a second run under the lights in Levi, Finland. No top 30 results means no points, and no points means the Canadians could be contending with worse start positions at the next World Cup race. It's a hole you don't want to dig yourself into.
However, expectations are usually low for the first race of the season, and generally speaking the Canadian skiers tend to do better in the second half of the race calendar once the nerves are gone and fitness kicks in.
"It wasn't acceptable," said men's head coach Pete Bosinger. "It's not something we are going to panic about — we've just got to change our approach.
"It was a perfect track; absolutely perfect conditions. You have to get out there and ski your best. You need to take chances and pull out your best skiing, and if you don't you are not going to qualify because there's too many guys starting outside the top 30."
This season is critical for Alpine Canada with a world championship on the calendar. It's also the best chance to earn quota spots and qualify athletes for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Whistler's Mike Janyk has the best start position with Bib 20, and although he didn't make any mistakes on his first run he also said he didn't take any chances.
"It was a sprint, there was no room for error," he said. "I had a great approach and focus, but what this showed was that what's missing now is that spark to really race — it's that fire. I've had it in the past and I've had it super strong. But if you are not willing to learn from your mistakes you will never get anywhere."
Other Canadians who failed to qualify for a second run were Julien Cousineau, Trevor Philp and Sasha Zaitsoff.
The women's slalom team did considerably better, building on some solid results from the opening giant slalom the previous weekend.
One again Marie-Michele Gagnon led the way, placing 10th overall after drawing bib number eight the previous day.
"I was a lot better in the second run," said Gagnon, who was sitting 18th after her first run. "I was in the zone and just generally attacked. I'm happy, for sure. I expect more but I'm glad I got the jitters out of the way in the first slalom race."
Combined with her sixth place results in giant slalom, Gagnon now sits fourth in the overall World Cup standings. It's early days, but Gagnon has been Canada's most consistent skier the last few seasons and reached the podium for the first time last year.
Erin Mielzynski, who made history by winning a slalom event last season, overcame a slow first run that put her in 29th to tie Nina Leseth of Norway for 14th overall. She nearly crashed on the steep pitch, but recovered to earn a spot in the top 15.
"I had nothing to lose in the second run and the place I finished is my ranking in the world," she said. "I said I would start by taking steps and I have. I held back, for sure, in the first run. What happened was my fault — I struggled a bit. It's hard having a first run like that but I'm looking forward to Aspen."
A nice surprise for the team was the 28th place result posted by Brittany Phelan of Quebec, earning her first career World Cup points. Elli Terwiel skied off course near the bottom, and Eve Routhier, returning from an injury, was not fast enough to make the cut.
The win went to Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany in 1:55.58, followed by Tanja Poutiainen of Finland in 1:56.13, and Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. in 1:56.32.
The speed events debut at Lake Louise Winterstart, with a downhill and super G for the men on Nov. 24 and 25, and the women's downhill and super G from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2. For more, visit www.alpinecanada.org/winterstart.
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