Guay's the greatest 

Third-place finish in Bormio downhill sets new Canadian podium record; Pridy earns first points of season

click to enlarge PHOTO BY PENTAPHOTO / COURTESY OF ALPINE CANADA - Record setter Erik Guay gives a roar after taking the lead in the Dec. 29 World Cup downhill at Bormio, Italy. Guay would hang on to third place for the 21st podium of his career, establishing the new Canadian record for all-time World Cup medals.
  • Photo BY Pentaphoto / Courtesy of Alpine Canada
  • Record setter Erik Guay gives a roar after taking the lead in the Dec. 29 World Cup downhill at Bormio, Italy. Guay would hang on to third place for the 21st podium of his career, establishing the new Canadian record for all-time World Cup medals.

Erik Guay didn't need much time to cement his status as Canada's most successful alpine skier.

Just one week after he tied Steve Podborski's mark of 20 World Cup podium finishes, Guay grabbed the record all to himself with a third-place finish in the downhill at Bormio, Italy, on Sunday, Dec. 29.

"It's awesome to set the record and especially in Bormio, a place where I've never had a podium before," said Guay. "It was huge to be able to tie Steve Podborski's record and to be able to beat it a week later is really special."

Guay has collected his 21 World Cup medals over a 10-year period, his first coming in a runner-up finish at the Lake Louise downhill in 2003. Six of those finishes have come in super-G; all 20 of Podborski's medals were earned in downhill races between 1979 and 1984.

"Honestly, I think tying Steve was more important," said Guay, who equalled Podborski's total with a victory at Val Gardena, Italy, on Dec. 22. "I knew it was kind of over and at least I had that. To break it is obviously great, especially the weekend after, but it wasn't really my ambition right now. I was just focusing on the race at hand.

"But to get that record is incredible and to be part of that group of elite athletes with Steve Podborski is really special."

Podborski also claimed bronze at the 1980 Olympics, and a podium finish at the Games is just about the only thing missing from Guay's resumé. But the 32-year-old from Mont-Tremblant, Que., is looking strong with just five weeks and three World Cup speed races left to go until the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

"For the first time in my career I know why I'm fast and I feel like I can be fast anywhere and on any course," said Guay, the 2011 downhill world champ.

"Sochi is the big one this year but as an athlete you always focus on individual races. Right now, Sochi is in the future and I'm looking forward to getting home and spending some time with my family."

In other Canadian results, Jan Hudec was 14th and two Whistler Mountain Ski Club products skied their way into the points — Manuel Osborne-Paradis finished 21st and Conrad Pridy earned his first top-30 finish of the season by placing 29th. Whistler's Robbie Dixon finished 32nd, just six-hundredths of a second out of the points, for his best result since returning from last season's serious leg injury. The 28-year-old was having a strong run before nearly skiing out but recovering.

"Robbie was looking very, very strong and then his shoulder went on the ground and he lost a second or 1.3 or so," said Canadian head coach Martin Rufener in a release. "He's training hard to be in there and he was going for it today."

Invermere's Ben Thomsen was 37th and Jeffrey Frisch placed 41st.

Guay, who started 17th, crossed the finish with a 0.47-second lead before Aksel Lund Svindal posted the winning time from the 20th start position. Austria's Hannes Reichelt was next down the course and settled in between Svindal and Guay to earn runner-up honours.

Between Guay, Hudec and Osborne-Paradis, the Canadian Cowboys have posted a top-four finish in four of the last five World Cup speed races.

"When you get results like this it helps with the mental strength and confidence," said Rufener. "It's so important to have Erik as the team leader, showing that he's on top of the world. It helps the other guys and shows the group what they have to do."

The three skiers have all secured their spot at the Olympics, but one Canadian berth remains up for grabs among the speed group. Pridy's top-30 finish on Sunday, the third of his career, certainly didn't hurt his chances. He and younger brother Morgan Pridy are the only other Canadians to earn World Cup points from a downhill or super-G this season.

The next downhill won't take place until Jan. 18 at Wengen, Switzerland. Whistler's Mike Janyk will be making a rare appearance at Bormio on Jan. 6, as the slalom that was scheduled for Zagreb, Croatia, has been relocated there due to a lack of snow at the original venue. Janyk has only raced at Bormio once before, during the 2005 world championships.

GAGNON POSTS FOURTH-PLACE FINISH

Quebec's Marie-Michèle Gagnon's impressive season continued with a fourth-place finish in the women's slalom at Lienz, Austria, on Sunday. Meanwhile, fellow Canadian Britt Phelan confirmed her place in Sochi with an 11th-place result.

"As much as it would have been nice to be on the podium I'm still happy with fourth," said Gagnon, who now has six top-10 finishes across three disciplines this season. "By the end of the second run my legs were shot. I'm doing all the disciplines and I think it's finally catching up to me. I'm going to take a little break and then get back to business."

Austria's Marlies Schild earned a record-setting victory, as she now owns the all-time mark for women's slalom wins with 35.

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