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World Cup champions crowned in Italy

Forsyth fifth to lead Canadians at World Cup finals Almost four months of ski racing wrapped up last weekend at Sestrieres, Italy with the World Cup Finals.

Forsyth fifth to lead Canadians at World Cup finals

Almost four months of ski racing wrapped up last weekend at Sestrieres, Italy with the World Cup Finals. Only the top-25 skiers in each of the World Cup disciplines were invited to compete, with the last points of the season and the overall rankings on the line.

Four Canadians took part in the World Cup finals, with Thomas Grandi representing the men’s technical team and Fernie’s Emily Brydon, Quebec’s Genevieve Simard and Nanaimo’s Allison Forsyth representing the women.

The action got underway with the downhill on March 10. Brydon was the only Canadian in the women’s event by virtue of her 11 th place ranking in the standings.

She placed 14 th in the final downhill, dropping one position in the downhill standings to finish 12 th .

"It’s a bittersweet season, really," said the 23-year-old. "It was a strong, consistent season for me which is a great step in my career – I wasn’t a one-hit wonder, I was in there every race, challenging the best in the world. Being the 12 th best female in the world is nothing to be ashamed of.

"But on the other hand, I was so close to the podium so many times but made stupid little errors that cost me."

After making a stunning national team debut in early 2001, Brydon suffered knee injuries that kept her out of competition for almost two years. This was her comeback year.

"I really don’t think about my knees anymore," she said. "There’s no pain there, so there’s really no reason to think about it except for silly little thoughts that creep in, but I try to keep those out."

Renate Goetschl of Austria won the last downhill race of the 2004 season finishing 0.35 seconds ahead of Sylviane Berthod of Switzerland. Isolde Kostner was a close third.

Goetschl also took the women’s downhill title with 680 points. She was followed by Hilde Gerg of Germany with 546 and Carole Montillet of France with 492. Brydon earned 192 points to rank 12 th .

Other Canadians wound up farther down the final downhill standings. Anne Marie LeFrancois of Charlesbourg, Quebec was 33 rd , Kelly Vanderbeek of Kitchener, Ontario was 34 th and Genevieve Simard of Val-Morin, Quebec was 36 th .

The final men’s downhill event went to Daron Rahlves of the U.S., followed by Fritz Strobl and Stephan Eberharter of Austria. None of the Canadian men qualified as one by one the leading contenders were sidelined with injuries over the course of the season.

For the second year Eberharter ran away with the downhill title, earning 831 points in the event. Rahlves was a distant second with 627 and Hermann Maier, in the first full season of his comeback after a motorcycle accident nearly cost him his leg, was third with 537.

The top Canadian on the list is Mont Tremblant’s Erik Guay with 81 points. Guay who won a silver medal at Lake Louise in November before a serious crash and leg injury in mid-December put him out for the rest of the season.

Brydon was back in action the following day in the super G, along with teammate Simard.

Brydon, ranked 20 th heading into the final super G, had another solid day. She finished 12 th in the race, but didn’t advance in the rankings.

"It was a perfect day for racing – blue sky, nice hard track. It’s an awesome course," said Brydon of the track that will be used for the 2006 Olympics.

Simard didn’t do as well. A 25 th place finish dropped her two spots in the super G standings to 12 th .

"The top of the course was okay…. But I made a mistake and skied too conservatively. I didn’t go full-gas like I did in Cortina and the other super G races where I had good results," said the 24-year-old Simard.

The win went to Nadia Styger of Switzerland, followed by Maria Riesch of Germany and Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria.

Renate Goetschl of Austria claimed her second World Cup title in as many days with 467 points. Carole Montillet of France was second with 402 and Dorfmeister third with 391, knocking Hilde Gerg of Germany out of the third place position. Simard finished with 177 points and Brydon with 100.

The men’s super G medals went to three Austrians with Hermann Maier in first, Stephan Eberharter in second and Christoph Gruber in third. Benjamin Raich, another Austrian, was a close fourth.

No Canadians qualified for the final super G.

The super G title went to Maier with 580 points. Rahlves of the U.S. was second with 340 and Eberharter third with 312.

Guay was once again the top Canadian in the super G standings, finishing 24 th with 54 points.

The men’s giant slalom on March 13 was cancelled due to a snowstorm. American Bode Miller won the GS title with 410 points, followed by Kalle Palander of Finalnd with 349 and Massimiliano Blardone of Italy with 266.

Canmore’s Thomas Grandi finished the season in 13 th place with 145 points.

The women’s slalom managed to get off the ground on Saturday despite the conditions. None of the Canadian women qualified this year, with injuries again proving to be a factor. Allison Forsyth of Nanaimo and Whistler’s Britt Janyk, two of Canada’s top slalom skiers, missed events and spent time recovering from various injuries during the season. For Forsyth, the problem was recurring tendonitis in her hips. Janyk pulled out of a race with a damaged knee early in the season and underwent surgery before attempting her comeback.

The final women’s slalom went to Marlies Schild of Austria, followed by Sarah Schleper of the U.S. and Tanja Poutiainen of Finland.

Sweden’s Anja Paerson finished on top of the slalom standings with 770 points. Schild was a distant second with 447 and Monika Bergmann-Schmuderer of Germany was third with 437.

In the women’s giant slalom on Sunday, Paerson won another medal and her third consecutive GS title with 630 points to her credit. Denise Karbon of Italy was second and Alexandra Meissnitzer of Austria third.

Forsyth, 25, finished the season on a high note in fifth place, less than half a second off the podium.

"It’s been my toughest year yet on the World Cup circuit," said Forsyth, referring to her tendonitis. "I can’t say I’m not happy to see this season end.

"I’ve definitely been running on a half-tank of gas, when I usually race at 110 per cent."

Despite the pain and constant rehabilitation, Forsyth was happy to meet her goal and finish in the top-15. Her fifth place result left her 15 th in the final GS standings.

"I was very excited to race at Sestrieres – I love this hill and it’s definitely one of my new favourites. The conditions were tough and icy, which lend themselves towards my style of skiing," she said.

"I wanted to go out and enjoy my last run of the year, and I’m excited to end the season with my best result."

In the final GS standings Paerson was followed by Denise Karbon with 343 and Maria Jose Rienda Contreras of Spain with 339. Simard and Janyk were 29 th and 30 th for Canada.

The last event of the World Cup finals was the men’s slalom. Kalle Palander of Finland took the gold followed by Rainer Schoenfelder and Manfred Pranger of Austria.

Canmore’s Thomas Grandi was 15 th in the competition, and he remained 10th in the final slalom standings.

"I’m glad I held on to the top-10," said Grandi, who made the fastest second run of the day after figuring out his new skis. "It’s uplifting motivation after the disappointment of Saturday’s cancelled GS. It’s good to have some positive to end the season with."

As well as a top-10 finish, Grandi will also receive a vehicle from Pontiac GMC for a year as part of a sponsorship deal.

Schoenfelder claimed the slalom title with 630 points, followed by Pallander with 595 and Benjamin Raich of Austria with 255.

When all the points had been added up the overall World Cup women’s title winner was Anja Paerson of Sweden who was first in the slalom and GS, 15 th in super G and 42 nd in downhill to earn 1,561 total points. Renate Goetschl of Austria was second with both the downhill and super G titles and 1,344 points, and Germany’s Maria Riesch was third with 977 points.

Emily Brydon was the top Canadian finishing 27 th overall with 292 points.

In the men’s overall rankings Hermann Maier made his comeback complete with first place in the super G standings, third in the downhill and 1,265 total points to lead the field. His teammate Stephan Eberharter was a close second with 1,223 points. Another Austrian, Benjamin Raich, was third with 1,139 points, five points ahead of Bode Miller of the U.S.

Thomas Grandi was the top-ranked Canadian in 21 st overall with 366 points.

The Canadian team is back at home and preparing for the Pontiac GMC Cup Canadian Championships at Le Massif and Mont-Ste-Anne in Quebec this weekend.