Canadian skiers turn it up for World Champs 

Simard narrowly misses podium

Although the results have been all over the map this season, the Canadian Alpine Ski Team is showing that it has what it takes to excel under pressure.

In the second day of competition at the World Alpine Ski Champioships at St. Moritz, Switzerland on Feb. 3, Genevieve Simard came within a fraction of a second of winning Canada’s first World Championship medal in 10 years.

Her time of 1:27.90 put her on the podium in the super G, until Austria’s Michaela Dorfmeister pushed her off the podium on her way to winning the gold medal.

Dorfmeister’s time of one minute, 27.48 seconds was 0.02 faster than Kirsten Clark and 0.15 ahead of Jonna Mendes, both of the United States.

The results are a testament to just how far the American program has come as a result of hosting the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. In the last World Championships in 2001, the American team failed to win a single medal – now they have three in super G alone and strong contenders in the other events. The American medal total includes Bode Miller’s tie for silver in the men’s World Championship super G on Feb. 2.

"We’re competitive with the Americans, but it’s good to see them on the podium," said the 22-year-old Simard. "They are away from home for three months just like us. If they can be strong, we can be too."

Simard finished just 0.27 seconds back of Mendes to finish fourth. Melanie Turgeon, 26, of Quebec City finished just 0.22 seconds back of Simard to earn sixth place, and a spot at the medal ceremony that evening.

"It’s awesome, we’ll have to green Canadian Spyder jackets at the presentations tonight," said Simard.

Canada also managed to put a couple of skiers in the top-30, with Emily Brydon of Fernie finishing 23 rd , and rookie Kelly VanderBeek of Kitchener, Ontario finishing 28 th .

Although Simard has been skiing well all season, she gave part of the credit for her strong finish to the example the Canadian men’s team set the day before. Erik Guay of Tremblant, Quebec, was sixth and Jan Hudec of Banff seventh in a tough men’s field.

"I spent time with Erik yesterday and it made me want to feel like he was feeling," said Simard. "It’s really motivating for the group to see the guys do so well."

For Turgeon, who prefers faster courses than the winding course at St. Moritz, it was a good day.

"I seriously gave it everything I had and I’m pretty satisfied," she said. "Normally on a snaky course like today’s I’d be further out, but I know where my weaknesses are and I trained on really tight courses to prepare for the World Championships. We’re skiing as a team. It’s a lot easier to ski well when there are two of you who can challenge for the podium."

In the men’s competition, Stephan Eberharter of Austria claimed the World Championship title in 1:38:80, while his teammate Hermann Maier and Bode Miller of the U.S. tied for the silver medal with identical times of 1:39.57.

For the Canadians, Guay and Hudec led the way, but Vincent Lavoie of Cap Rouge Quebec was pretty happy with his 16 th place finish also. Whistler’s Jeff Hume also raced, but did not finish.

"Canada’s coming back in skiing," said Guay, 21. "I’m surprised but I’ll take it. I honestly didn’t think I had a really good run, but ski racing is funny like that – sometimes you’re fast even when you really don’t feel fast."

Guay was behind at the first intervals, but went on to post the fastest time on the bottom section of the course. Hudec posted the fastest intervals at the top of the course, but lost ground as he approached the bottom.

"One of my goals, deep down inside, was to make top-10," said Hudec, who is also 21. "It was exhilarating to come down to the finish, look at the board, and hear the guy announce my name and say that I was in seventh. It was awesome."

The World Championships continued this week. The men’s downhill was scheduled for Feb. 8.

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