'The pressure is never off when your goal is to win' 

ACA President Ken Read is pleased with the national team’s progress, but believes more can be done

In a short but intense period of time, the Canadian Alpine Ski Team has evolved from a token presence on the world stage to a legitimate threat in every race.

While there were always a few athletes who could be relied on to perform, this year the Canadian team is fielding serious contenders in almost every event. At the recent alpine world championships in Switzerland, five different athletes helped the Canadian team garner seven top-seven results, including Melanie Turgeon’s gold medal in the downhill and Allison Forsyth’s bronze in the giant slalom.

According to ACA President Ken Read, it was the Canadian Alpine Ski Team’s best overall showing ever in a world championship.

The last time the Canadian alpine team earned two medals, also a gold and a bronze, in a world championship was back in 1982. Before that, Canada’s best showing was a gold and a silver in 1952. But they never posted seven top-seven results before this year.

"We’ve never had this much depth before," said Read, a former member of the team who took over the helm of ACA last summer.

While Turgeon is the only athlete to land on the podium this season, earning a bronze medal in the super G a week before the world championships, skiers on both the men’s and women’s teams have come close on many occasions, and the team is racking up more top-30 and top-10 finishes on the circuit than it has in many years.

"A little confidence and enthusiasm has led to more confidence and enthusiasm. We had very high expectations of this team, and they’ve performed beyond what we hoped for," said Read.

"The skiers are stepping up. When we had Erik (Guay) and Vincent (Lavoie) finished fifth and seventh in the super-G, it really was a shot in the arm for the entire team. There really is team momentum, because they’re feeding off one another’s success. They are really starting to believe in each other and themselves, and they know they are close to a breakthrough out there. They believe they can win."

Read’s influence on the program was felt almost immediately, as new sponsors stepped up to assist the team. The coaches and athletes worked hard this summer with a expanded training program.

"Coming into this season, we wanted to be very clear of what we wanted the objectives to be for the program, and we were aiming pretty high," said Read.

"There’s a fundamental difference to where they are now from where they were a year ago. They have a great deal more confidence in the program, both the coaches and the athletes, and they have worked constructively together to improve our chances out there."

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