Slow start for women's speed team 

Despite all the experience that the women’s alpine team has been building, it was a rookie that led the way in Friday’s downhill at Lake Louise’s Winterstart World Cup festival.

Shona Rubens of Canmore, 19, was the top Canadian in 15 th place, while Kelly Vanderbeek and Sherry Lawrence were 26 and 28 th respectively to earn points.

"I am just blown away," said Rubens. "I never thought I was going to have a result like this. I was hoping for a top-30 today but this result is so wonderful as this is home for me, in front of my friends and family."

Allison Forsyth just missed the points, finishing in 31 st place. Emily Brydon was 38 th .

The win went to Italy’s Elena Fanchini, a 20 year old who is only in her second year with her national team. Michaela Dorfmeister and Alexandra Meissnitzer of Austria, both veterans of the circuit, were second and third respectively.

Fourth and fifth went to Julia Mancuso and Lindsey Kildow of the U.S.

In the second downhill the following day, Vanderbeek was the only Canadian skier to manage a top-30 spot with her 19 th place finish.

Kildow of the U.S. took the gold, followed by Sylviane Berthod of Switzerland and Dorfmeister.

In the final day of racing, a super-G, Genevieve Simard just missed the top-10 with her 11 th place result. Vanderbeek was 17 th .

Three Austrians swept the podium: Meissnitzer took the gold, Andrea Fischbacher the silver and Dorfmeister the bronze.

With their five medals in the men’s events last weekend and one medal in the women’s, as well as nine other top-10 results, the U.S. program has established itself as a rival to Austria and Norway heading into the 2006 Olympic Winter Games.

Canada is still hoping to qualify 22 athletes for the 2006 Winter Games. To qualify an athlete has to achieve two top-12 results in any World Cup competition, excluding the combined event, before Feb. 6. Some 13 athletes have already qualified for one or more events, while at least four others only need one more top-12 before the deadline to qualify.

Athletes can also qualify with one top-five result before the deadline.

There is also a chance that younger skiers can qualify through the Rising Stars program. Open to male athletes born in 1981 or later and female athletes born 1983 or later, an athlete can qualify with two top-30 results in the World Cup in 2005-06, or a gold medal in the World Junior Championships from last year.

With top-30 results in Lake Louise, both Shona Rubens and Sherry Lawrence are one result away from qualifying.

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