Turgeon World Champion in downhill 

Quebec alpine star wins Canada’s first world championship title in a decade; Canadians coming through

It’s been 10 long years since a Canadian won at the Alpine World Ski Championships – Kate Pace was last to accomplish this feat in Japan in 1993. But for the next two years the title of world downhill champion will belong to Melanie Turgeon of Quebec City.

The 26-year-old started the day from the 28 th spot after finishing third in the final training run at St. Moritz, Switzerland. The top-30 run in reverse order in the final, pushing the top skiers to the back where the deteriorating course conditions even up the competition.

Turgeon astounded the huge crowd of more than 75,000 alpine fans when she led the field in every section of the course, and bumped hometown hero Corinne Rey Bellet out of the top spot.

"Melanie Turgeon, World Champion – it has a good ring to it," she said in the finish area.

"I worked really hard all week to win this race. I’ve been so close so many times, but I’ve held back and I don’t know why."

Turgeon was one of the most dominant skiers on the World Cup circuit in 2000-01 with seven top-five results that season. She only reached the top-10 three times last season as she struggled with a sinus infection and a persistent back injury.

After a slow start, she appears to be back on track this season, posting three consecutive results in the top-six, including a bronze medal in a World Cup super-G two weeks ago.

Turgeon’s time of one minute, 34.30 seconds on the 2,719-metre long Engiadina course was 0.11 faster than Bellet and Alexandra Meissnitzer of Austria, who tied for second place.

The three other Canadians in the race also managed to finish in the top-30. Emily Brydon of Fernie was 18 th in 1:35.32, Kelly VanderBeek of Kitchener, Ontario was 24 th in 1:35.96, and Genevieve Simard of Val Morin, Quebec, was 27 th in 1:36.04.

In the men’s downhill on the following day, Erik Guay of Mont Tremblant, Quebec, matched his incredible sixth place in training with another sixth-place finish in the finals.

Although he started off with an average run, the 21-year-old rookie posted the second-fastest split time in the bottom section of the course to move up into the top-six, and a spot just off the podium in the awards ceremony.

Guay credits his strong finish to his background in giant slalom and slalom events.

"On a technically demanding course like today, I excel at the bottom because of my strong technical ability. I’ve been progressing all year, and I hope I can keep going in the same direction," he said.

"It’s not every day that you beat Hermann Maier (eighth place) or finish two-hundredths (of a second) back from Stephan Eberharter. I had a pretty clean run, though I was faster in yesterday’s training run in the middle section. I had no big mistakes, and I kept a cool head for the race."

This is only Guay’s second year racing in the downhill, having focussed on technical events early in his career. He was also sixth in the super G earlier in the week at St. Moritz.

The gold medal went to Michael Walchhofer of Austria with a time of 1:43.54 He was followed by Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway with a 1:44.05 and Bruno Kernen of Switzerland with a 1:44.51. Guay’s time of 1:44.70 was just 1.16 seconds off the lead.

The next Canadian on the leader board was Vincent Lavoie of Cap Rouge, Quebec in 29 th spot out of 48 racers. Whistler’s Jeff Hume straddled a gate in a compression turn, lost a ski and skied to the side of the course on one ski.

In the combined races, which include a slalom and a downhill event, Janica Kostelic of Croatia edged out Nicole Hosp of Austria by 0.06 seconds to take the gold medal with a time of 2:41.63. Marlies Oester of Switzerland was third.

Emily Brydon was the top Canadian in 11 th place with a combined time of 2:45.85. Genevieve Simard was 14 th , and Kelly VanderBeek 20 th .

In the men’s combined, Bode Miller of the U.S. took the world championship with a time of 3:18.41. Lasse Kjus and Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway were second and third in 3:18.48 and 3:18.54 respectively.

Guay was 17 th for Canada, and Hume was 22 nd .

The World Championships continued through this week with giant slalom and slalom events from Feb. 13 to Feb. 16. Canadian results for those events are available at the Alpine Canada Alpin Web site at www.canski.org.

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