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Canadian women crack top ranks

No podiums, but plenty of top-30 results at Lake Louise speed events

Alpine Canada Alpin President Ken Read summed up the last two weeks for the men’s and women’s World Cup teams in a letter last week: "The past two weeks at the Lake Louise Winterstart World Cups presented by CIBC showcase how far we have come, and also how far we have to go before we can reach our goal of being a world leading alpine racing country by 2010," he wrote.

"In some cases it was a learning experience, for all our team, both athletes and the growing organizations that support them. Still we showed the world that we are a nation on the rise."

Although the Canadian women failed to make the podium in the Winterstart downhill and super G events, the number of top-20 and top-30 results was unprecedented in recent years.

In the opening downhill on Dec. 3, the U.S. Team continued to show its dominance with Lindsey Kildow taking the gold medal in a time of one minute, 23.44 seconds. The previous week Bode Miller won both the downhill and super G events at Lake Louise, a first for the skier in both disciplines.

Carole Montillet-Carles of France was second by 0.17 seconds and Hilde Gerg of Germany crossed the line just 0.06 seconds slower.

The only Canadian to crack the top-30 in this race was Quebec City’s Melanie Turgeon in 30 th place – 2.13 seconds off the lead time. Kelly VanderBeek of Kitchener, Ontario was 33 rd , after being pulled off the course with a yellow flag on the her first run. She was one hundredth of a second off the lead time before she was flagged down because of a crash in the lower sections.

Anne Marie Lefrancois was 36 th , while Fernie’s Emily Brydon registered a DNF after her skied popped off during her run.

The Canadians would hit their stride in the second downhill the following day, with four athletes finishing in the top-30.

Hilde Gerg of Germany moved up into the first position, edging out Renate Goetschl of Austria. Carole Montillet-Carles was third.

The top Canadian was once again Turgeon, who moved up into 16 th place – 1.49 seconds back of Gerg.

"I’m satisfied with my result," said Turgeon, who missed all of last season with a back injury. "I changed my body language and I was stronger on my outside ski. I think I’ll be 100 per cent by January."

Brydon came back from a near disaster the day before to finish 18 th . She hoped to finish higher, but was happy to be in the points. "There will be plenty of other opportunities this year," she said.

VanderBeek finished just one spot back in 19 th place. "I raced hard today," she said. "I made a few mistakes, but I still finished top-20, so I know I can be in the top-10 if I put it all together."

Anne-Marie Lefrancois was 24 th overall.

Genevieve Simard was 36 th and Christina Risler 50 th .

The Canadian skiers built on their momentum in Sunday’s super G, with three athletes finishing in the top 20.

Michaela Dorfmeister and Goetschl of Austria were first and second, followed by Kildow in third.

The top Canadian in the race was Vanderbeek, who was 14 th – 1.31 seconds back of Dorfmeister. It was the 21-year-old’s best result in a World Cup race.

"Today I was attacking the course," she said. "If you are in the top-15, you can be in the top three."

She was followed closely by Nanaimo’s Allison Forsyth in 15 th place. Although she ordinarily races technical events, Forsyth has been branching out since she had to quit slalom after coming down with tendonitis in her hips.

"Canadian women are out here to win and are a force to be reckoned with," she said.

Simard was 18 th . Brydon finished just out of the top-30 in 31 st place, while Turgeon was 38 th , Gail Kelly was 50 th and Lefrancois was a DNF.

Following the World Cup events, most of the racers stayed in Lake Louise for the CIBC NorAm Cup, which started on Tuesday and runs until Dec. 15.