Helie injured as World Cup racing resumes 

Marie-Helen Gagnon is the top Canadian in the giant slalom

After a short break for Christmas the Canadian Alpine Ski Team was back in action with the men's ski team in Bormio, Italy and the women's technical team at Simmering, Austria.

In Austria, Marie-Michelle Gagnon was the top Canadian in the giant slalom in 23rd. Marie-Pier Prefontaine failed to qualify for a second run.

Tessa Worley of France took the win, followed by German skiers Maria Riesch and Kathrin Hoelzl.

"I'm a little bit disappointed," said Gagnon. "I didn't have a good second run. Obviously I have to be realistic, if it had been last year I would have been happy with a 23rd place but I've been skiing really well in giant slalom this season so I had better expectations."

Gagnon recently placed fifth in a GS event, and is currently ranked 15th overall in the world. She's also 21st in slalom, 27th in super G and 12th in combined.

In the slalom, Erin Mielzynski of Ontario, a rookie with the national team, managed a 20th place finish. She was 29th after the first run, but followed up with the 11th fastest second run to move up nine spots.

"I'm obviously happy about my race today since it's my best result in a World Cup race," said Mielzynski. "I think it's a good stepping stone for me and it is a great confidence builder for the races to come because I know I can do even better."

Eve Routhier, another rookie, finished a career-best 23rd.

The Canadian women's technical team is young by World Cup standards, with an average age of just over 20 years old. The veteran, Anna Goodman, turned 24 in 2010. By contrast, the top World Cup skiers are in their mid- to late-20s, and in some cases like Christina Geiger and Tanja Poutiainen, turned 30 last year.

There was a huge turnout for the night slalom event, with an estimated 25,000 spectators watching from the sidelines and bottom of the course.

The crowd was rewarded as Austria's Marlies Schild took the gold medal, followed by Germans Maria Riesch and Christina Geiger.

Meanwhile the men's speed team was in Bormio for a downhill. Whistler's Manuel Osborne-Paradis was the top Canadian skier in 13th, followed by Jan Hudec in 18th.

"My race felt decent," said Osborne-Paradis. "Not the best, not the worst. I mean, I say this every year, but it's something I can build on. I'm skiing good enough now and we have a good enough coaching staff that I can really sit down and talk with them and work on the races."

Michael Walchhofer of Austria was the top racer, followed by Silvan Zurbriggen of Switzerland and Christof Innerhofer of Italy.

Whistler's Robbie Dixon was the top Canadian in training in seventh place, but went off course in his race run after catching a ski in a rut and crashing.

Crashes were common in Bormio, and Canada's Louis-Pierre Helie was airlifted from the course with a head injury on the second day of training. He crashed hard after an air section, lost consciousness, and was flown to Innsbruck, Austria for treatment by neuro specialists.

Helie turned 25 on Saturday, as he was returned to Canada for continued treatment. He's expected to make a full recovery.

He was not the only skier injured on the course. Marco Sullivan of the U.S. also crashed, but managed to ski to the bottom. However, a decision was made to airlift the American after medical staff confirmed that he also suffered a head injury.




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