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Whistler skiers get started at Winterstart

Robbie Dixon, Madison McLeish on start list

For the next two weeks the focus of the alpine speed world is Lake Louise and the annual Winterstart World Cup events.

The men race first, with training runs through this week leading up to the downhill on Saturday, Nov. 26 and the super G on Sunday. The women's training runs get underway on the following Tuesday, with downhill races on Friday Dec. 2 and Saturday, Dec. 3, and a super G on Sunday.

The men's race will see the return of Whistler's Robbie Dixon to snow after a concussion last season, Louis-Pierre Helie after a knee injury, and John Kucera, a past winner at Lake Louise and World Champion who has missed the last two seasons with breaks to his shin bones.

Whistler's Manuel Osborne-Paradis is still recovering from an injury he sustained over the summer and won't be racing in the men's event.

Other racers in the lineup include world champion Erik Guay, Dustin Cook, Kelby Halbert, Jan Hudec and Ben Thomsen.

"I'm looking forward to kicking off the season," said Guay. "I get excited about every race, but especially Lake Louise. Because it's at home, because my friends and family come to support me, because it's always the first race of the year, it's always a little bit of a special one."

It's also something of a monkey on Guay's back, which he hopes to shake off this weekend.

"I had my first podium there (in 2003) and since then I haven't gone back to the podium there. I don't know what the reason is for that, but hopefully this will be the year."

Kucera is keeping his own expectations low.

"I'm pretty excited to be coming back, two years later, at the same place where my injury happened. It's something I'm really looking forward to. I really enjoy racing Lake Louise and being there with friends and family.

"The way the injury happened, there was a lot of bad luck - it's not like it's a hill that freaks me out. It was an innocent fall. There are going to be some nerves, but I'm looking forward to getting my head back into the game - that's a big part of it. The leg feels great."

The women's team will be without Kelly VanderBeek, who has also been out of the lineup the past two seasons with a knee injury, and newcomer Larissa Yurkiw, who injured her knee last year. Both are back on snow, but will miss the start of the season while they continue to recover.

That leaves two young Canadians racing next week; Whistler's Madison McLeish is getting her first World Cup downhill start and Marie-Michele Gagnon will be returning after her best season ever.

CBC will be broadcasting from Lake Louise. The television schedule is at