Janyk, Kucera lead alpine team efforts 

Austrians win all but one World Cup gold medal

By Andrew Mitchell

The alpine World Cup season kicked into high gear following the New Year with three events in the past week — a women’s slalom in Croatia, a women’s slalom and giant slalom in Slovenia, and a men’s slalom and giant slalom in Switzerland.

For the second straight week Canada failed to win a medal, ending a five-week streak through November and December that resulted in six medals for the team.

But while Canadians didn’t climb any podiums, several athletes continued to move up the rankings by earning top-30 results.

In the slalom at Zagreb-Sljeme, Croatia, Brigitte Acton of Montreal was the only Canadian in the race, placing 25 th . Marlies Schild of Austria continued to dominate in the discipline with her fourth slalom win of the season, followed by Ana Jelusic of Croatia and Sarka Zahrobska of Czech Republic.

Moving on to Slovenia, Genevieve Simard placed 13 th in the giant slalom. Acton, Emily Brydon, Britt Janyk, and Gail Kelly did not qualify for a second run.

Austria once again claimed gold, this time with Nicole Hosp at the top of the podium. Italy’s Nicole Gius was second, followed closely by Tanja Poutiainen in third.

In Sunday’s slalom Schild claimed her fifth slalom gold medal, and is on pace to set several records this year. Sarka Zahrobska picked up her second medal of the weekend, while Veronika Zuzulova of Slovakia claimed the bronze. Canada’s top skier was Acton, placing 21 st .

While still a few seconds back of a medal, Acton has earned points in four races this year, showing an encouraging level of consistency for the struggling women’s technical team.

Meanwhile the men’s team was in Adelboden, Swizerland for a pair of races.

In Saturday’s giant slalom, Canada placed two skiers in the top-30 after two runs. Calgary’s John Kucera, the World Cup leader in super G, made up for a conservative first run with one of the faster second runs of the day to place 12 th . Francois Bourque was seventh after the first run but dropped back to 20 th after making a mistake in his second run.

“Things got complicated in the second run as I didn’t feel confident on my skis,” he said. “I started strong, but made a crucial mistake after the first interval and made a series of mistakes which led me to the 20th position.”

Bourque earned a silver medal for Canada in Austria earlier in the season, and has already earned the right to race in the World Championships at Are, Sweden at the end of the month.

Thomas Grandi also qualified for a second run, but did not finish after an injured leg started to act up and he skied off course.

Benjamin Raich added a fourth gold medal to Austria’s tally this past week, followed by Massimiliano Blardone of Italy, and Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.

There was rain falling for the second day of racing, but Whistler’s Mike Janyk — used to skiing in rain — was not phased. After qualifying for a second run in 13 th position, Janyk moved up four spots to ninth with a fast second run in rapidly deteriorating conditions.

“It’s always a good result to get in the top-10,” he said. “In 13 th place, you’re far away from the podium.”

Marc Berthod of Switzerland spoiled another Austrian win with a come from behind victory, moving up 25 spots with the fastest second run of the day. Benjamin Raich picked up the silver, while Mario Matt of Austria was third.

Janyk slipped back one spot in the World Cup slalom rankings to fourth.

Heading into the New Year, Canada is now ranked fifth among World Cup nations. On the men’s side, Canada has skiers ranked in the top-10 in all four disciplines.

 

Williamson leads Para-alpine Nor-Ams

The Canadian Disabled Alpine Ski Team had a solid outing in Park City, Utah this weekend at a Nor-Am Cup event and warm-up for the World Cup season.

While Canadians earned several medals, Ontario’s Chris Williamson — competing in the visually impaired category — led the way for Canada with gold medals in slalom and giant slalom.

While podiums are nothing new to Williamson, this was one of his first races since fracturing his leg during a training run at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games. He also had a new guide for the contest, Ontario’s A.J. Brown.

Whistler’s Matt Hallatt also had a solid weekend, just missing the podium in fourth place. Vancouver’s Morgan Perrin was sixth.

Arly Fogarty of Montreal won both GS races and placed fourth in the slalom.

Brad Lennea, another Whistler skier, did not finish the men’s sit ski race.

The first World Cup for disabled skiers is at Aspen Jan. 17-21.

 

Development skiers top Quebec Nor-Ams

Canada’s female development team all but swept a Nor-Am at Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec last week, winning eight out of a possible 12 medals in four contests.

In the first giant slalom Megan McJames of the U.S. took gold, while Emilie Desforges and Shona Rubens placed second and third for Canada. Whistler’s Alison Leighton was 50 th .

Day two of the giant slalom was close to being the same, with McJames once again taking gold, while Rubens and Desforges swapped places on either side of the podium to place second and third respectively. Leighton was 50 th once again.

Canada picked up its only gold of the weekend in slalom with Megan Ryley finishing first and Rubens picking up her second silver. Kiley Staples of the U.S. was third.

In the last event, another slalom, it was a U.S. sweep. The closest Canadian was Rubens in fourth place.

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