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Near misses, near medals at Lake Louise

Turgeon comes close, Kostner claims both downhills Canada’s Melanie Turgeon crashed in the first World Cup downhill of the season, at Lake Louise last week, but came back to place fourth in the second downhill and ninth in the super G.

Turgeon comes close, Kostner claims both downhills

Canada’s Melanie Turgeon crashed in the first World Cup downhill of the season, at Lake Louise last week, but came back to place fourth in the second downhill and ninth in the super G.

At the same time, Italy’s Isolde Kostner returned to Lake Louise to claim her third and fourth gold medals there. She has also been on the podium in her last eight appearance at Lake Louise.

It was an eventful three days, to say the least.

On day one, after skiing well in the training runs, Turgeon lost a ski after landing a new jump on the bottom of the Olympic Downhill course. She tumbled to a stop just 300 metres from the finish line and a likely finish on the podium.

She got up on her own power, cradling her bruised right shoulder, and retrieved her ski.

Kostner won the first downhill by a respectable margin, 33/100ths of a second, and was clocked at 102 kilometres an hour in one of the speed sections. Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria was second, followed by Corrine Rey Bellet of Switzerland.

With Turgeon out, 24 year old Anne-Marie Lefrancois was Canada’s top racer, finishing in 17 th place, but less than a second and a half out of first place. She was just 9/100ths out of qualifying for a berth in the 2002 Winter Olympics, and is now just one top 13 result away.

On the second day of downhill racing, Turgeon was determined to race despite the pain in her shoulder and her left knee.

"In F1 racing the guys crash their cars and walk away, then get back in another car and go the next day – that’s what we have to do," said the 25 year old from Quebec City. "This is my job and yesterday could have been worse. I had the luxury of being able to ski today, without holding back. It’s my own victory today.

"The doctors thought there would be a discussion with the coaches about me before the race. But I said, ‘you can discuss as much as you want but I’m going to race’."

Turgeon didn’t appear at all concerned during her run on day two, and crossed the finish line in third place overall. With only a handful of competitive racers left at the starting gate, it looked like Turgeon was on her way to the podium. Unfortunately for her, Sylviane Berthod was one of those racers. The Swiss skier posted the second best time of the day, pushing Dorfmeister back to third and Turgeon to fourth, 1/100 th of a second away from the podium.

Kostner secured her second win in as many days.

Another victory for Canada was the performance of Lefrancois, who managed to finish in 12 th place and qualify for the Olympics.

"Going down I didn’t think I had such a good run. I had a hard time feeling my skis really carving, but I just tried to keep going fast. I was happy and kind of surprised to see my 12 th place," said Lefrancois. "Right away the Olympics clicked in my head and it made my day. I’ve dreamed of the Olympics since I was 10 years old."

Sara Maude Boucher, 22, of St Denis de Brompton, Quebec – one of the youngest members of the Canadian women’s speed team – managed to crack the top 30 and earn a career best 28 th .

Whistler’s Christina Risler, a rookie with the Canadian Alpine Ski Team at the age of 18, finished in 56 th place.

Although she wasn’t on the podium, the Lake Louise downhills also signalled the return of U.S. Olympic gold medalist Picabo Street, who has been recovering from broken bones and knee injuries since winning the super G gold medal at the 1998 Olympics. Street finished sixth on day one and fifth on the second day.

In the super G on the final day of competition, Turgeon placed a solid ninth. The pleasant surprise of the day, however, was the 11th place performance of Genevieve Simard, 21, of Val Morin Quebec.

After missing most of 1999 with a knee injury, Simard made 11 podiums on the Europa Cup and NorAm racing circuits last year before returning to World Cup.

Her performance earned her the Winterhur Newcomer of the Race honours, which is awarded to the racer who cracks the top 15 with a bib number that’s higher than 45. The award? A gold nugget worth $1,000.

"The coaches said the track was still amazing and there were no ruts so I could attack all the way down," said Simard. "Doing speed all week helped me to get a good solid feeling. Downhill helps all the other disciplines because it makes them feel so slow – you feel solid and in control."

The result put Simard within reach of the Olympics. She now only requires one more top 13 result to earn a position.

"I think I could be top five," she said. "It’s all possible."

The day went to German skier Petra Haltmayar, followed by Carole Montillet of France, and Caroline Lalive of the U.S.

Following the World Cup races, most of the racers opted to stay in Lake Louise and compete in the NorAm competitions there after it was announced that the next round of World Cup races in Val d’Isere, France, were cancelled due to a lack of snow.