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Cousineau leads Canadians at worlds

Kucera injures leg again, goes back into surgery

Canadians raced hard on the final weekend of the FIS Alpine World Championships at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, but were unable to add another podium to go with the downhill gold medal earned by Erik Guay the previous weekend.

Julien Cousineau came closest in the men's slalom race, placing fifth - just 0.26 seconds off the podium.

Whistler's Michael Janyk was defending his bronze medal from the championships in 2009, but was one of the 42 athletes who didn't finish their first run. He was in good company, with Kalle Palander of Finland, Steve Missilier of France and Silvan Zurbriggen of Switzerland also not finishing.

Trevor White cracked the top-30 for Canada, placing 20th.

"I wish I had been on the podium but I'm satisfied," said Cousineau. "I'm starting to get tired of being fifth. I want to get on the podium. I can't wait. I know it's coming, I've just got to keep doing what I'm doing."

For Janyk, the result was particularly disappointing. He was skiing fast through the qualifiers and some of his splits were faster than the eventual champion.

"I knew the way I was skiing I was on the limit," he said. "You always say it's better to ski fast and ski out than come out slowly. It's true but it still hurts. I had the fast split up there. That's the one thing I can take away from it is that the speed was there.

"But we have a really strong team ...and a really, really strong fifth place. It's positive for the team that we can do that. Now we just need a podium."

The win went to Jean-Baptiste Grange of France, followed by Jens Byggmark of Sweden and Manfred Moelgg of Italy. Mario Matt of Austria edged Cousineau for fourth place by 0.05 seconds.

Newcomer Erin Mielzynski led the Canadian women in the slalom in 16th place, with the fastest time in the second run. She was sitting in 29th after her first run down the course, then exploded out of the gates to move up 13 positions.

"I'm a little disappointed with my first run but my second run was amazing," said the 20-year-old. "I wish I could have had a better result but it's my second-best result at this level. It's definitely a stepping stone to where I want to be in the future."

Anna Goodman also laid down two solid runs to place 21st.

Marlies Schild of Austria was first, followed by teammate Kathrin Zettel and Maria Pietilae-Holmner of Sweden.

Marie-Michele Gagnon, who is Canada's top slalom athlete this season, was one of 36 skiers who didn't finish her first run.

The giant slalom also took place on the final weekend. The men's team didn't qualify any racers in the event, and is struggling to put together a World Cup team thanks to injuries to national team skiers like Francois Bourque and Jean-Philippe Roy.

Ted Ligety of the U.S. took the gold medal, followed by Cyprien Richard of France and Philipp Schoerghofer of Austria.

The Canadian women, by contrast, has a solid team of newcomers in giant slalom, and three managed to place in the top 30 - Marie-Michele Gagnon in 23rd, Marie-Pier Prefontaine in 24th and Whistler's Britt Janyk in 28th.

"It was not a good day but there are a lot of positives we can take forward," said Jim Pollock, the ladies' technical head coach. "We have the raw material that we need to win but we need a little more polish and more hard work."

Tina Maze of Slovenia was golden, followed by Federica Brignone of Italy and Tessa Worley of France.

The other headline for the national team last week was the re-injury of John Kucera.

Kucera, the 2009 downhill champion, was at the U.S. Nationals as a forerunner while he continued to rehabilitate himself from a tibia break at the start of the 2009 season.

He reinjured the tibia during a run and was rushed back to Calgary for surgery.

Despite the fact that he has not raced in over a year, Kucera remains as committed as ever to his return to racing.

"I'm kind of shocked," he said. "It's a bad luck situation - my ski just popped off.

"The injury is not nearly as severe as last time. I'm going to stay focused on coming back as soon as I can."

Dr. Stephen French, the medical co-director for Alpine Canada Alpin, said; "He is recuperating and looking forward to his rehabilitation in a very positive mind frame. He had been in absolutely tremendous shape just prior to the injury and this will serve him well in his rehabilitation."

The Canadian Alpine Ski Team has been reeling from injuries. The list of athletes on the sidelines also includes Kelly VanderBeek (left knee), Manuel Osborne-Paradis (left leg and left knee), Francois Bourque (left knee), Robbie Dixon (concussion), Louis-Pierre Helie (concussion), Larissa Yurkiw (left knee), Jean-Philippe Roy (right knee) and Kelly McBroom (fractured left tibia). Jan Hudec is currently skiing with a broken hand, while downhill world champion Erik Guay missed a pair of races with a sore back.

The injuries have prompted Alpine Canada Alpin to host a summit in the spring to discuss ways of reducing injuries. The International Skiing Federation (FIS) is also compiling data from injuries and will be making a series of recommendations on everything from equipment to course preparation.