Marie-MichĂ¨le Gagnon and her gate-bashing teammates offer Canadaâ€™s best hopes for Sochi gold Winter 2013 Vol. 2, No. 2
in this issue Editor’s Note................. 3 Gallery............................. 4 World Cup Spotlight....6 Alpine..............................8 Freestyle.......................10 Cross-Country............ 12
Cover photo: Marie-Michèle Gagnon (Alessandro Trovati, Pentaphoto/Alpine Canada)
Hirscher, Maze set pace in crystal chase No Canadian man has ever won the FIS World Cup alpine overall title. Nancy Greene was the first overall champ on the women’s side, winning the inaugural titles in 1967 and 1968, but no Canadian woman has since accomplished that feat. Things won’t change this winter. But North Americans will factor heavily into the overall battle. On the men’s side, American giant slalom dynamo Ted Ligety was third in the overall points chase in mid-January. Defending overall champ Marcel Hirscher of Austria leads the way with 935 points, but Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, in search of his third overall (he won in 2007 and 2009), is second with 747. Ligety has scored in super-G and slalom while dominating the GS discipline. “To make a big impact in the overall chase, my slalom needs to get significantly better than it is now, and I need to continue to improve in super-G,” Ligety wrote in his “World Cup Diary” in a December edition of the Denver Post. “And I have to hope the guys ahead of me, Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway and Marcel Hirscher of Austria, don’t go on some massive tear. Or, hopefully, I can get on that kind of tear.” The women’s overall chase is shaping up as an intriguing one, thanks to an illness to defending champ Lindsey Vonn and the rise of Slovenia’s Tina Maze. Following continued fatigue from a stomach illness, four-time overall champ Vonn took a two-week break from the World Cup tour in December. Maze has scored in all disciplines and holds a massive points lead over Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch and the rest of the field. American slalom sensation Mikaela Shiffrin is seventh. Vonn bested Maze 1,9801,402 for last season’s title. But after sweeping the Lake Louise downhills this season, Vonn crashed out at Val d’Isere. Now, her margin of error is virtually nill in the speed events for the rest of the season. Just after Christmas, Maze made her focus clear: “I will now stay focused on my goals of the season, which are the world and the overall.” In this edition of S-Comp, we offer a status report on Team Canada, via highlights, quotes and images from what has so far been a slightly subpar season for the home brigade. One year out from Sochi, we also take a look at Canada’s top hopes for mining gold at the 2014 Games. For more comprehensive coverage of the winter snowsports scene — plus ski tips, blogs, contests and Ski Television videos — check out www.snowsportsculture.com. — Don Cameron
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Canmore hosted World Cup action in December, with top-notch conditions and sunny skies greeting the worldâ€™s elite.
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Lindsey Vonn ruled Lake Louise again, sweeping the two downhills and super-G in the 2012 Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup.
Michel Painchaud (3)
Canadian development squad skier Jesse Cockney left it all on the course in the World Cup sprint at Canmore, Alberta. A four-time medallist at the 2011 Canada Winter Games, Cockney won his quarterfinal heat and led three teammates into the final 15, finishing a career-best ninth on the day.
Michel Painchaud; Pentaphoto/Alpine Canada (Hudec, ski cross action)
Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal rejoices after his winning run in the men’s World Cup super-G at Lake Louise. Svindal also took the downhill a day earlier, when Erik Guay was sixth.
Emil Joensson of Sweden reacts as he wins the World Cup sprint at Canmore. Canada’s Len Vajas was seventh and Jesse Cockney ninth.
Germany’s Andreas Schaurer leads Tristan Tafel and Dave Duncan through a corner in the World Cup race at Innichen/ San Candido, Italy. Duncan was 10th, with Brady Leman fifth.
Erik Guay signs a helmet for a young fan at the Lake Louise Winterstart. Guay is nearing Steve Podborski’s Canadian record for World Cup podiums of 20.
Canadian Cowboy Jan Hudec rips down the Val Gardena super-G course en route to a 12th-place finish.
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2012-13 World Cup Spotlight
VERGE OF GREATNESS As Canadian Cowboy Erik Guay (left) nears Crazy Canuck Steve Podborski’s podium mark, the women’s technical team — spearheaded by Marie-Michèle Gagnon and Erin Mielzynski — is turning heads on the World Cup alpine circuit. BY DON CAMERON
Photo by Paul Morrison
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It’s amazing. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and I knew I had to take some steps this year to get on the (podium). It’s great to have this to build my confidence and remind me what it takes. I just want to learn from every experience and I learned a lot from today.” — Erin Mielzynski (left), after her third-place result in the Jan. 4 Zagreb slalom
Three Canadians surged into the top 10 in the Zagreb Snow Queen night slalom on Jan. 4 in Croatia. It’s the first time Canada’s women’s team has had three women in the top 10 in a World Cup slalom. Erin Mielzynski put together two solid runs in challenging conditions to finish third. Marie-Michèle Gagnon was eighth and Brittany Phelan 10th.
Canada’s best Olympic hopes
Erin Mielzynski and MarieMichèle Gagnon. Since winning the Ofterschwang slalom in March 2012 — the first Canadian since Betsy Clifford in 1971 to win a World Cup slalom race — Mielzynski has recorded three top-10 finishes, including a third place at Zagreb on Jan. 4. The Georgian Peaks product and Rossignol racer turned some
speed The highlight
On home snow at Lake Louise on Dec. 2, Larisa Yurkiw claimed the second top-30 super-G result of her career, placing 25th in the Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup super-G.
Canada’s best Olympic hope Marie-Michèle Gagnon, Larisa Yurkiw
“It’s going to take a little bit of patience for Canada to have a strong team on the downhill side again but we are focused on it because that’s where the tradition lies.”— Alpine Canada president Max Gartner, after Larisa Yurkiw and Marie-Michèle Gagnon (right) scored in the Lake Louise super-G
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heads at the 2011 World Championships, placing 11th in slalom after recording the fastest time in the second run. Teammate Gagnon has recorded 15 top-10 World Cup results and like Mielzynski could be a force on the tour for the next decade. Neither will be favourites in Sochi, but both have podium potential and might be the safest Olympic bets for Canada, outside of, perhaps, Erik Guay.
VanderBeek retires After 12 years, Canada’s Kelly Vanderbeek retired Jan. 12. She recorded three WC podiums and was fourth in super-G at the 2006 Olympics. Rising star American Mikaela Shiffrin leads the slalom standings ahead of Tina Maze. Shiffrin, just 17, is the first American skier in history to win two World Cup races before turning 18. Schild sidelined Austria’s Marlies Schild won slalom titles in 2007, ’08, ’11 and ’12 but suffered a torn MCL in her right knee in December. 2012-13 overall through Jan. 13 1. Tina Maze 2. Maria Hoefl-Riesch 3. Kathrin Zettel
Erin Mielzynski (Pentaphoto/Alpine Canada); Marie-Michèle Gagnon (Michel Painchaud)
I’m really happy with my skiing and I’m extremely optimistic for the rest of the season. Two more podiums and I will (tie) Steve’s record. I don’t spend my nights dwelling on it, but to be able to say I’m the best skier in Canadian history would be something special.” — Erik Guay (left), after recording his 18th career podium by placing third in the Val Gardena downhill
Eric Guay, Michael Janyk (Pentaphoto/Alpine Canada)
Erik Guay scorched the Saslong to place third in the Val Gardena downhill Dec. 15. It was Canada’s first podium of the season and the 18th of Guay’s career, placing him just two podiums behind Crazy Canucks legend Steve Podborski, who holds the Canadian record for World Cup podiums with 20. In that same race, teammate Manuel Osborne-Paradis placed
seventh as he continues to regain confidence.
Canada’s best Olympic hopes
Erik Guay. In two previous Olympic Winter Games, Guay has shown the ability to step up to the plate, delivering three top-five finishes, but, agonizingly, no podiums. He was fourth in super-G at Sestriere in 2006 and fifth in both super-G and downhill at the 2010 Vancouver
TECHNICAL The highlight
Mike Janyk did not score in the first five slaloms and finally finished in the top 30 in Wengen, finishing 26th. “Hopefully this can spark something,” said Janyk. “I’m going to build off it.”
Canada’s best Olympic hope Mike Janyk, Julien Cousineau
“We are not making excuses for what’s happening out there. I feel like (a big result) is going to come, and when it does it’s going to feel great.”— Men’s coach Pete Bosinger, after slalom special-
Games. The defending downhill world champ, Guay has just two top-10 finishes this winter. He was 20th in downhill on the Sochi hill in the 2010 test event. But for Guay to cement his status as Canada’s all-time best male speed skier, an Olympic medal is a must. Podborski won bronze in 1980. With a push from Jan Hudec, Manny Osborne-Paradis and the rest of the Canadian Cowboys, Guay will be a Sochi factor.
Where’s Bode? Bode Miller is rehabbing his knee and laying low in San Diego, where he lives on a yacht with his new wife, volleyball player Morgan. He’s expected to make one last run for glory at the 2014 Games.” Rising star Italy’s Dominik Paris, 23, ranks second in DH after nailing his first WC win in the Bormio race. On the rebound Slowed by a knee injury, 2011 champ Ivica Kostelic ranks ninth but might be getting hot, with three straight top-10s starting with a fifth in Munch. 2012-13 overall through Jan. 13 1. Marcel Hirscher 2. Aksel Lund Svindal 3. Ted Ligety
ist Mike Janyk (right) hooked a tip Dec. 18 at Madonna di Campiglio
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It was pretty cool today because it was the first time that I got the highest technical scores in the turns technique in the qualification round. I worked on that all summer, so I have already achieved one goal.” — Justine Dufour-Lapointe (left), after finishing second to American Heather McPhie on Dec. 15 at Ruka
In the World Cup duals Dec. 22 at Kreischberg, Austria, Justine Dufour-Lapointe won bronze, leading a halfdozen Canadian women into the top 16. Chloe DufourLapointe finished sixth, Chelsea Henitiuk ninth, Audrey Robichaud 11th, Andi Naude 13th and Maxime Dufour-Lapointe 16th. Justine nabbed silver a week earlier in the Ruka, Finland, season opener. It was a strong
display of depth for the Canadian contingent.
Canada’s best Olympic hopes
Justine Dufour-Lapointe. Like Mikael Kingsbury, DufourLapointe is young but unrelenting in her pursuit of the podium. Just 18, she already has scored 14 podiums, including eight last winter, when she finished runner-up to Hannah Kearney in the chase for crystal. She has two World Cup wins to her
SLOPESTYLE/HALFPIPE The highlight
In Dew Cup slopestyle at Breck, Kaya Turski and Yuki Tsubota gave Canada a one-two finish. Turski won every event she entered last season and is a three-time X Games champ.
Canada’s best Olympic hope Rosalind Groenewoud and Kaya Turski
“I did what I planned to do on my run, it wasn’t my best run, but I think considering the weather I did really well and I’m pleased with my skiing. It’s a really good way to start the season, especially being an Olympic qualifier and rolling into X Games.”— Kaya Turski (right), after winning the Dew Cup Dec. 16
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credit, including one in 2011 at age 16 at Mont Gabriel, Quebec, when she became the youngest female winner of a World Cup moguls event. She could be a contender for the next three Games. Canada has plenty more in the arsenal, too, with sister Chloe looking to improve on her fifth-place result at Cypress in 2010, when Canadian icon Jenn Heil bowed out after striking silver. Audrey Robichaud was eighth at Torino in ’06.
Aerials attack Through mid-January, Canadian veteran Sabrina Guerin ranks 15th in the World Cup aerials standings, with China’s Mengtao Xu leading Aussies Lydia Lassila and Danielle Scott. Rising star Heidi Kloeser of the U.S., just 20, ranks third in the moguls standings, boosted by her first career podium (second) at Kreischberg in December. Pipe power Canada has five athletes in the top 25 of the women’s halfpipe rankings, with Rosalind Groenewoud fifth. Megan Gunning, Cassie Sharpe, Dara Howell and Keltie Hansen also are in the top 25.
Justine-Dufour-Lapointe, Kaya Turski (Mike Ridewood, CFSA)
I tried to relax and have fun at the top of the course, and even though Alex is my teammate, I tried to treat him the same way I would any other competitor. I always seem to go against Canadians, so I have a lot of practice treating them like anybody else when I’m in the gate.” — Mikael Kingsbury (left), after his season-opening showdown against Alex Bilodeau
Mikael Kingsbury, Olivier Rochon (Mike Ridewood, CFSA)
In the season-opening dual at Ruka, Finland, Mikael Kingsbury edged teammate Alex Bilodeau for the victory. Marc-Antoine Gagnon was fourth, Cedric Rochon seventh and Simon PouliotCavanagh eighth, while Philippe Marquis was 43rd, though he rebounded with a fourth place Dec. 22 at Kreischberg. At Kreischberg, Bilodeau exacted some revenge, besting Bilodeau
in the semis en route to a second-place finish.
Canada’s best Olympic hopes
Alex Bilodeau and Mikael Kingsbury. Will a long layoff hurt Bilodeau’s chances? Will the Olympic debut pressure affect the King? Not likely. Bilodeau stole the show at the 2010 Vancouver Games with his golden effort that he dedicated to brother Frederic, while Kingsbury chalked up a crystal globe last winter,
AERIALS The highlight
Crystal globe champ Olivier Rochon scored a third place Jan. 5 in the opening aerials competition of the season, in China. Travis Gerrits and Jean-Christophe André were 9th and 10th.
Canada’s best Olympic hope Olivier Rochon
“This competition was really an extension of our training camp because we didn’t really get to finish the camp because of bad weather, so I didn’t have a chance to get up to my full (degree of difficulty).”— Olivier Rochon (right), after a third-place
when Bilodeau scaled back his competition calendar to recharge. Kingsbury medaled at every World Cup last season, became the youngest male moguls skier to win crystal, and matched American Jeremy Bloom’s record for most consecutive moguls wins at six. They’ve got a combined 55 World Cup podiums between them — 32 for Bilodeau, 23 for Kingsbury — and that number should be significantly larger when Sochi rolls around.
Riddle rules pipe Canada’s Mike Riddle, the 2011 worlds gold medallist, won the Copper halfpipe event Jan. 11 to move into second in the standings. Matt Margetts, Noah Bowman and Kristopher Atkinson also have scored pipe points for Canada this winter. Slopestyle STARS After posting his first career podium (third place) at Copper, Canada’s Alex BealieuMarchand ranks second in the slopestyle discipline behind Great Britain’s James Woods. Rising star Canada’s Travis Gerrits, 21, secured his first World Cup podium Jan. 12 at Val Saint-Côme, Quebec, pushing him into second in the aerials rankings.
finish Jan. 5 in China tip Dec. 18 at Madonna di Campiglio
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There (were) a lot of cowboy hats in the crowd today and I just told myself to get out of the gate, get one arm back like being on a bucking bronco and hang on for the ride. I set a crazy pace (in the qualifier) and didn’t know if I could hang on, but I did.” — Chandra Crawford (left), after finishing sixth in the Canmore World Cup sprint Dec. 15
While the men’s team has racked up top-10s and accolades, Canada’s women’s team has savored small victories — personal bests, strong efforts here or there, the maturation of some young racers. Dec. 15 in the Canmore sprint, hometown girl Chandra Crawford fended off elimination time and time again to delight the crowd and finish sixth on
the day. Teammate Perianne Jones was a career-best 11th.
Canada’s best Olympic hopes
Chandra Crawford and Perianne Jones. With two podiums last season and a sterling effort at this season’s Canmore World Cup, the 29-year-old Crawford has shown has plenty left in the tank. She sizzled to the sprint gold medal in 2006 at Torino and has recorded six podiums and 20 top-10 finishes
MID/LONG DISTANCE The highlight
Senior development team skier Emily Nishikawa, just 23, recorded her best career finish Dec. 16 at Canmore, finishing 34th. Daria Gaiazova was 37th. Emily’s brother Graham was 15th in the men’s race that day, also a career best.
Canada’s best Olympic hope
Daria Gaiazova (right) and Emily Nishikawa “This is a great race for me and I’m thrilled. It is close to my first goal of getting into the top 30’s. It is a good start and I hope to build on this.” — Emily Nishikawa, after a career-best 34th at the Canmore World Cup on Dec. 16
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in her Cup career. Jones, 27, must build on her careerbest 11th-place effort in the Canmore sprint to be a consistent top-10 threat. Jones and Crawford will hope to duplicate — or eclipse — the feat achieved by Canadians Beckie Scott and Sara Renner in 2006, when they struck silver in team sprint. It might be a longshot on the Olympic stage, but Jones and Crawford nabbed bronze in the Milan World Cup sprint last January.
Red-hot Randall American Kikkan Randall leads the women’s sprint standings ahead of two Norwegians as she looks for a historic repeat. Rising star Germany’s Denise Herrmann was just 39th last season but ranks ninth in this season’s overall chase, thanks to a nearpodium in the Canmore sprints and a second in the Quebec team sprint. Tour de force Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk won her fourth straight Tour de Ski in early January, edging Kristin Stoermer Steira. 2012-13 overall through Jan. 13 1. Justyna Kowalczyk 2. Therese Johaug 3. Kikkan Randall
Chandra Crawford, Daria Gaiazova (Michel Painchaud)
Every time I put on a race bib now I look to get on the podium. I know I can be there in both classic and skate skiing, so it is just a really good feeling to get my first podium of the year.” — Alex Harvey (left), after his 3rd place in the Tour de Ski stage on Jan. 5
SPRINT/SHORT DISTANCE The highlight
Canada cemented its reputation for contender status on the Tour de Ski with a double podium in the sixth stage on Jan. 5. Toronto’s Len Valjas hammered down the finishing stretch to claim silver in the 15 km event, while Quebec’s Alex Harvey powered to bronze. It marked the second time in the history of cross-country skiing that two Canadian
men have shared a World Cup podium.
Canada’s best Olympic hopes
Alex Harvey and Len Valjas. On any given day, Harvey, Valjas and Devon Kershaw have the potential to medal in a sprint or shorter distance race. Kershaw, after finishing second in last season’s points, has struggled to find top form this winter, but look for him to rebound. Valjas might not have the diversity
Alex Harvey, Devon Kershaw (Michel Painchaud)
MID/LONG DISTANCE The highlight
Ivan Babikov clocked the second-fastest time in the final and most punishing stage of the Tour de Ski to finish a seventh in the Tour, moving into 11th in the season standings.
Canada’s best Olympic hope Ivan Babikov and Devon Kershaw
“It was absolutely amazing to race here. Quebec is just so passionate about ski racing, and the crowd was so supportive all week.”— Devon Kershaw (right), after Quebec made a stellar debut
of his teammates, but he now has seven World Cup top-10s (and five stage top-10s). Harvey has the ability to rise up to big-event challenges, evidenced by three world junior medals, a world title and big showings in the Tour de Ski. Harvey and Kershaw won team sprint gold at the 2011 World Championships in Oslo and just missed a medal in Vancouver, and the dynamic duo will be a heavyweight contender to set a golden Olympic standard in Sochi.
British history On Day 3 of the Tour de Ski, Andrew Musgrave became the first British skier to make the semifinals in a stage World Cup sprint event (11th place). Sprint standouts Andrew Newell of the U.S. and Len Valjas of Canada give North America two top-10 racers in the World Cup sprint standings heading into the final few months. On the rebound Alexander Legkov became the first Russian to win the Tour de Ski, with defending champ Dario Cologna placing second. 2012-13 overall through Jan. 13 1. Alexander Legkov 2. Petter Northug Jr. 3. Dario Cologna
as a World Cup cross-country venue
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It’s kind of an escape from everything to actually be back on the race course. We’re all still out here doing what we love. I love to ski race, and I love to ski. And any day I can go skiing and say, ‘I went to work today,’ is an amazing day. A nd that’s exactly what Nik would want is for us is to keep going and keep having fun.” — Brady Leman (left), in homage to teammate Nik Zoricic, who died last season racing ski cross
His sights set on crystal, Brady Leman soared to a second-place finish on Dec. 19 at Val Thorens, France, following up on his runner-up effort in the previous stop at Telluride, Colorado. He was joined in the final by teammate Dave Duncan, who placed fourth. Canada also got solid outings from alpine convert Louis-Pierre Helie (18th) and Tristan Tafel (23rd).
Canada’s best Olympic hopes
Brady Leman and Dave Duncan. With Chris Del Bosco sidelined due to injury, Leman has been Canada’s go-to guy. After rehabbing from broken legs three times and an injury that forced him out of the 2010 Olympics, Leman was edged for last season’s crystal globe by Slovenian Filip Flisar. He ranks second behind Swiss racer Armin Niederer this winter. Leman wowed the home crowd last
women’s sx The highlight
Reigning world champ Kelsey Serwa nailed down her seventh career win Dec. 23 at Innichen-San Candido, Italy, while teammate Georgia Simmerling, an alpine team convert, rocketed into second for her first SX podium.
Canada’s best Olympic hope Kelsey Serwa and Marielle Thompson
“I was talking to (ski tech) Rod Honey and I told him, ‘I’m sick of losing. I’m going to win today.’ I’m hungry for it now. Before, I didn’t put that expectation on myself. Now, I’m ready to race.”— Kelsey Serwa (right), after her Dec. 23 win in Italy
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February by winning the Blue Mountain World Cup. With talented teammates including Duncan, Tristan Tafel and Louis-Pierre Helie pushing him, and one of the best support staffs in the business, Leman should be a legit podium threat in Sochi. Duncan, meanwhile, is chasing World Cup win No. 1. He has four career podiums and 16 top-10 finishes. His second-place result in Germany last February was his closest flirtation with victory.
Rising star Switzerland’s Armin Niederer was just 42nd last season and did not reach the podium, but this season, he ranks second in tour points. Onward, Ophelie Ophelie David of France, 36, a three-time season champ, continues to amaze. With secondplace finishes at Nakiska and Telluride, she has 49 career WC podiums. 2012-13 men’s overall through Jan. 13 1. Alex Fiva 2. Armin Niederer 3. Brady Leman 2012-13 women’s overall through Jan. 13 1. Fanny Smith 2. Anna Holmlund 3. Andrea Limbacher
Brady Leman (Malcom Carmichael/Alpine Canada ); Kelsey Serwa (Pentaphoto/Alpine Canada)
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