Simard wins gold in Italy 

World Cup team rebounds in European series

After a couple of disappointing weeks, the Canadian Alpine Ski Team was back on course last weekend at World Cup events in Switzerland and France. On the women’s speed team, it was Genevieve Simard of Val-Morin, Quebec who led the way with her first gold medal in the super G at Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy – Canada’s second gold of the season after Erik Guay took the downhill gold at Lake Louise.

It was an encouraging turnaround for a team that has had few victories this season and lost some of its top racers to injuries, including Guay and world champion downhiller Melanie Turgeon.

Simard, 23, owned the steep and twisting top section of the course, and none of the other skiers in the field came close to cmatching her split times. Maria Riesch of Germany came closest, but finished a distant 0.65 seconds back. Hilde Gerg, another German racer, claimed the bronze medal.

"It was a dream come true," said Simard. "I’ve wanted to win a World Cup race since I was a little kid."

The races in Italy followed a busy weekend for the team, with the men racing at Chamonix, France and the women at Veysonnaz, Switzerland.

Banff’s Thomas Grandi has been hot for Canada recently, and hasn’t finished outside of the top-20 in a World Cup contest since he went off course during a slalom race in Park City back in November. He also has a pair of sixth place finishes to his credit this season.

In Chamonix on Jan. 8, Grandi started his day with a first place finish in the KO slalom qualifier race. He returned that afternoon to defend his position before a crowd of more than 10,000 race fans.

The KO slalom starts with a time trial before pairing off the top-30 racers for head-to-head racing. The winners of the first race and the top-three losers move on to the next round, and so on, eliminating skiers from the field until just two racers remain to challenge for the gold.

Grandi was solid in finishing sixth overall. Lars Myhre of Norway was first, nudging out teammate Tom Stiansen. Giorgio Rocca of Italy nipped Jonathon Brauer of Austria for the bronze.

Races were cancelled due to rain the following day, but resumed on Saturday. In the men’s downhill, Vincent Lavoie of Cap Rouge, Quebec and Whistler’s Jeff Hume came close to cracking the top-30 after solid training runs earlier in the week.

Hume was in 27 th place, and looked to earn his first World Cup points when a group of skiers at the back of the pack, including Lavoie, bumped him back to 33 rd . Lavoie was 32 nd .

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