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Guay leads downhill efforts

No medals, but skiers continue to rack up points

By Andrew Mitchell

After a short Christmas break – just five days for some athletes — the World Cup Alpine season was back underway with a pair of men’s downhill races at Bormio, Italy and a women’s slalom and giant slalom at Semmering, Austria.

Although Canada failed to win a medal — following six medals in seven weeks leading up to the holidays — the team put in another respectable showing at both events with athletes finishing in the top 30 and earning World Cup points.

The women’s competition got underway first, with a giant slalom on Thursday, Dec. 28. The only Canadian skier in the top-30 of that race was Genevieve Simard, who held on in a bumpy second run to place 29 th .

It was an all-Austrian podium with Kathrin Zettel on top, Nicole Hosp second and Marlies Schild third.

The slalom on Friday was similar, with Sweden’s Therese Borssen finishing on top, Kathrin Zettel was second and Marlies Schild third — putting an end to Schild’s three-win steak in the discipline. She had the fastest first run and was on pace to win four in a row, but made a few errors at the midway point of her second run to drop back a few spots.

The lone Canadian skiers in that race, Marie-Pier Prefrontaine and Brigitte Acton, did not qualify for a second run.

On the men’s side, Mont Treblant’s Erik Guay led the way on both days of downhill racing on the long Stelvio Olympic downhill course at Bormio.

On the first day — a makeup event for a race cancelled at Val D’Isere due to lack of snow — he placed 10 th , the only Canadian to make it into the top-30.

Austria’s Michael Walchhofer and Mario Scheiber won gold and bronze, while Switzerland’s Didier Cuche picked up the silver.

Guay improved his time on the same course the next day, but finished 15 th .

“Times were exceptionally close today,” said Guay. The top 15 were separated by just over one second.

“I made some small but crucial mistakes which cost me very important hundredths of seconds. Still, I am satisified with the way I’ve been recently skiing after a slower start to the season.

“I am working on some key areas I need to improve in order to get back to where I left off last season. I am confident that all the details will be covered as we approach the world championships in February.”

Walchhofer won the second race at Bormio as well.

Heading into the New Year, Canada is now ranked fifth among World Cup nations with 1,033 World Cup points. On the men’s side, Canada has skiers ranked in the top-10 in all four disciplines.

Whistler’s Mike Janyk and John Kucera are ranked second in the world in slalom and super G respectively, while Francois Bourque is sixth in giant slalom and Manuel Osborne-Paradis is 10 th in downhill. Thomas Grandi is seventh in slalom.

On the women’s side, Kelly Vanderbeek is ranked eighth in downhill and seventh in super G, and Emily Brydon is 13 th in downhill and ninth in super G. Whistler’s Britt Janyk in 31 st in downhill and 19 th in super G.