European downhillers dominate at Lake Louise 

The highlight reel of the Lake Louise Café de Colombia Alpine Ski World Cup will have few surprises – Hermann Maier celebrating a victory in the finish circle; smiling Austrians on the top of the podium; a Canadian racer crashing into the fence.

The disappointment and frustration of the Canadian downhillers was evident in the post-race interviews. So, too, was the determination to do better at the next event.

"I skied a little tense today," said World Cup veteran Edi Podivinsky, 30, of Toronto. "I skidded some turns at the bottom. You can’t win World Cups doing that."

Nonetheless, Podivinsky’s 28 th place finish was the Canadian Team’s highlight on Saturday (Nov. 25), and all things considered, something positive to build on.

"I really wanted to do something great here, since this is probably my last chance to race at Lake Louise," said Podivinsky, who will likely retire after the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. His final time of 1 minute 42.62 seconds was less than two seconds behind the winning time.

The race belonged to Austrian Stephan Eberharter, who notched the first downhill victory of his career. Although he turned wide at the top of the course, Eberharter’s run through the bottom of the course was near perfect. He finished the race in 1:40.79.

Silvano Beltrametti of Switzerland was poised to pull ahead but skied a little too aggressively and lost time going wide around a few corners in the bottom section to finish in 1:41.03. Lasse Kjus of Norway finished third in 1:41.21.

Austria’s Hermann Maier, the favourite who dominated in the qualifying runs, ran into trouble and nearly lost control over the rollers approaching the finish line in an effort to make up for lost time. He finished 15 th .

Kevin Wert of Rossland, B.C., the top Canadian in training, lost control in the steep Fall Away section and flew into the safety netting on the sideline while travelling full speed. The fence absorbed the impact, and slingshoted the 25-year-old back onto the course wrapped in a piece of netting.

He was knocked unconscious, and suffered a minor concussion and partial separation of his right shoulder. He face and legs were also banged up, and he was bleeding from his lower lip, where a silver stud was ripped out in the crash.

Within hours of the accident, Wert was joking with reporters and watching footage of the crash. "I was making history out there," said Wert. "I would have liked things to turn out differently." He said things were going great until the fence got in his way. Although he will be out for a few weeks, his season is far from over.

Darin McBeath of Calgary, AB, finished 37 th ; Luke Sauder of Cambridge, Ont., finished 43 rd ; Jeff Durand of Calgary finished 53 rd .

The next downhill outing for the Canadian men’s team will take place this weekend at Beaver Creek, Colorado.

Meanwhile, the Canadian women are competing at Lake Louise this week in two downhills (Nov. 30 and Dec. 1), and a super G (Dec. 2). The Canadian women are led by Melanie Turgeon, who recorded her first World Cup win in a super G last season, and Fernie’s Emily Brydon. Brydon scored a career-best 14 th place finish in a World Cup super G at Aspen last weekend.

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