Skiers medal at World Cup finals 

Grandi, Simard lead Canadian effort in Sweden

Only the best of the best, the top-30 in each discipline, were invited to the Audi FIS Ski World Cup finals in Aare, Sweden last week, with athletes reaching for their last points of the season and the overall World Cup titles.

Canada’s team was small to begin with, and was further diminished with the announcement that Mont Tremblant’s Erik Guay, the country’s top speed skier, was unable to compete due to a persistent injury.

In the final downhill of the season, Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway took the gold medal ahead of Bode Miller of the U.S. Peter Fill of Italy finished third. No Canadian men took part.

For the women, Anja Paerson of Sweden took the top spot, followed by Lindsey Kildow of the U.S. Elisabeth Goergl of Austria took the bronze.

Michael Walchhofer and Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria took the downhill titles.

American skiers Miller and Daron Rahlves took first and second in the super G, while Svindal earned the bronze medal after nudging his way past Hermann Maier. Francois Bourque of New Richmond, Quebec was the only Canadian, finishing in 15 th place.

Nicole Hosp and Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria were first and second for the women, followed by Martina Ertl-Renz of Germany. Canadians Emily Brydon, Kelly Vanderbeek and Genevieve Simard were 17 th , 18 th and 21 st respectively.

Things began to turn around for the Canadians in the technical events.

In the men’s slalom on Saturday, Canmore’s Thomas Grandi earned his third bronze medal in as many races, this time behind Markus Larsson of Sweden and Stephane Tissot of France.

"I seem to like it when the conditions are tough," said Grandi.

"At first glance I wouldn’t say this hill favors a skier like me because it’s pretty flat. But my confidence is so high right now that I believe I can do well on any course and any hill."

This season Grandi has 16 results in the top-15, or four more than the previous year.

Grandi now has five medals in slalom and four in giant slalom to his credit, all but one of them over the past three seasons.

There’s still no word on whether Grandi plans to retire, as he suggested he might do at the end of the season. With his results steadily improving (12 th overall in 2005, and 11 th in 2006) the Canadian Alpine Ski Team is hoping the 33-year-old will stay active for a long time.

After the men’s slalom, the women’s giant slalom took place.

Genevieve Simard pulled out all the stops in the women’s GS, finishing second, between Janica Kostel and just ahead of bronze medalist Tanja Poutiainen of Finland.

"I feel really good. I’m smiling and it’s a good way to end the season," said Simard.

"Since my podium in Cortina I’ve had some fast runs in GS and I’ve been doing some good things. It’s good to end the season on the podium."

Simard finished fifth in the final GS standings for the second year in a row, but she earned more points this year than last – 343 to 241.

"I was skiing very well in January and I have been able to maintain it all the way until now," she said. "I’m starting to feel more comfortable being in the hunt and being in a good position after the first run."

According to Simard, she and Grandi made a pact after their first runs that they would attempt a rare double podium for Canada.

"It was great to stick around the finish and watch the girls race and to cheer on our fellow Canadian teammates," said Grandi. "Gen and me were together in the lodge between runs and were both very relaxed. We could feel the positive vibes go around."

The schedule was reversed on Sunday with the men in the GS and the women in slalom.

Francois Bourque was fourth in the men’s GS, behind overall World Cup title winner Benjamin Raich of Austria, Massimiliano Blardone of Italy and Fredrik Nyberg of Sweden. Grandi was 12 th .

In the women’s slalom Janica Kostelic of Croatia took gold, followed by Marlies Schild of Austria and Anja Paerson of Sweden. No Canadian women qualified.

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