Canada announces alpine team with no women's speed groupTweet
Twenty-three racers identified as having “podium potential” were named to the Canadian Alpine Ski Team on Thursday (May 16) ahead of a crucial 2013-14 season that includes a busy World Cup schedule and the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Seventeen men and six women expected to contend for medals either now or in the future have been chosen to fly the flag for Canada as part of the national team.
The men’s roster features six ‘Canadian Cowboys’ – skiers who have won World Cup or world championship medals – 2011 downhill world champion Erik Guay, three-time World Cup winner Manuel Osborne-Paradis, Jan Hudec, Mike Janyk, John Kucera and young gun Ben Thomsen – as well as young racers as Trevor Philp, Erik Read and Phil Brown.
All-rounder Marie-Michèle Gagnon and slalom specialist Erin Mielzynski – the first Canadian since 1971 to win a World Cup slalom race – lead a young but talented group of female technical racers.
“We have selected athletes who have the potential to do well at the upcoming 2014 Olympic Winter Games as well as a younger generation of racers who are targeting 2018 and beyond,” said Paul Kristofic, Alpine Canada’s vice-president of sports.
“On the men’s side we have a group of veterans who have been on the podium or are contenders to be on the podium at World Cup and world championship races and clearly they will be targeting medals at the Sochi Games. We also have an exciting group of young and talented racers who have potential for 2018. We have a young women’s team but in Gagnon and Mielzynski we have two clear leaders who are part of a group that has made some big strides over the past few seasons.”
The start of the 2013-14 World Cup season, which kicks off in Soelden, Austria, in October, takes on added importance as racers will be battling to qualify for nomination to the Canadian team for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The selection criteria is complex and there are a limited number of spots on the Canadian team in each discipline but in the simplest terms, most athletes will be looking for two top-12 World Cup results or a top-5 finish, while some spots will also be available for “potential future medalists.” The nominees for the Canadian team are expected to be named in January 2014.
“We want to put our best foot forward at the Olympics. We recognize how important it is for our athletes and our organization,” Kristofic said. “We’ve come up short at the past two Games with fourth and fifth places and no one is satisfied with that. It’s very important that we win a medal.”
To that end, two high-profile coaches with a track record of great success at the highest level have been hired to lead the men’s team. Martin Rufener, who led the Swiss team to World Cup, world championship and Olympic medals, takes on the dual role of alpine director and head coach of the men’s team, while Italy’s ‘Max’ Carca has been named head coach of the men’s technical team. Swiss-born Hugues Ansermoz and Canadian Jim Pollock continue as head coach of the ladies’ team and ladies’ technical head coach, respectively.
Guay, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., had two fifth-place finishes at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games and a fourth in 2006 in Torino, Italy, and goes into the season hoping to claim his first Olympic medal – one of the few prizes missing from a glittering resumé that includes winning the super-G Crystal Globe in 2010. He also needs just one World Cup podium to tie Crazy Canuck legend Steve Podborksi’s Canadian record of 20 World Cup podiums. If Guay claims two or more top-three World Cup finishes this season he will become the most decorated male Canadian skier of all time.
“Steve has obviously been a huge inspiration and it would mean a lot to me to have that record and hopefully add to the legacy of ski racing in Canada,” Guay said of Podborski, who is Canada’s chef de mission for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
“If I was writing my own script I would say, yes, I want to win in Sochi but I know what it takes to win on any given day,” Guay said of claiming Olympic gold. “It’s one thing to be competitive throughout a season; it’s another to be competitive in one race, where anybody in the top 15 could win. One mistake and I could be fifth place. Another mistake and I could be 12th place. There’s nothing cut and dried in our sport – far from it.”
Osborne-Paradis, of Vancouver, B.C., and Kucera, of Calgary, Alta., both returned from injury last season and alongside Hudec, of Calgary, Alta., they represent a talented and experienced group of podium performers.
Thomsen, of Invermere, B.C., underlined his potential by winning silver at the Olympic test event in Sochi, while Janyk, of Whistler, B.C., is a former world championship medalist who will lead Canada’s slalom team. Calgary’s Brad Spence and Whistler’s Robbie Dixon hope to make their return from injury this season.
The 2013-14 men’s team also features six up-and-coming young talents – Dustin Cook, of Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que., Calgary’s Philp and Read, Brown, of Toronto, Ont., Sasha Zaitsoff, of Queens Bay, B.C. and Whistler brothers Conrad and Morgan Pridy.
Veterans Julien Cousineau, of Lachute, Que., and Jeffrey Frisch, of Mont-Tremblant – who has courageously battled back from injury – have also been given special “invitee status” to train and compete as part of the Canadian team.
The women’s team features World Cup regulars Gagnon, of Lac-Etchemin, Que., Mielzynski, of Guelph, Ont., Marie-Pier Préfontaine, of Saint-Sauveur, Que., Mont-Tremblant’s Britt Phelan and Elli Terwiel, of Sun Peaks, B.C., as well as youngster Madison Irwin, of Toronto, Ont. Veteran speed skier Kelly VanderBeek retired last season, while super-G and downhill specialist Larisa Yurkiw was not selected. Canada only has one World Cup spot for ladies’ downhill and that is likely to be used in several races by Gagnon, who is ranked fourth in the world in combined and is considered a serious medal threat in that discipline.
Gagnon, is ranked in the top 30 in slalom and giant slalom and 32nd in super-G, and said although much of the pre-season hype revolves around Sochi she is focused on getting her season off to a strong start by performing well in World Cup races.
“Going into an Olympic season is very exciting and there’s a lot of hype around it but every World Cup race is still so important,” said Gagnon. “It’s really exciting that the Canadian women are excelling at technical events now. It’s taking time but as a team we are building together. We will get there.”
A new alpine development team is due to be unveiled in the coming days.
Men’s Canadian Alpine Ski Team
Name Born Hometown
Phil Brown 09/11/1991 Toronto, Ont.
Dustin Cook 11/02/1989 Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que.
Julien Cousineau* 17/01/1981 Lachute, Que.
Robbie Dixon 04/01/1985 Whistler, B.C.
Jeffrey Frisch* 01/06/1984 Mont-Tremblant, Que.
Erik Guay 05/08/1981 Mont-Tremblant, Que.
Jan Hudec 19/08/1981 Calgary, Alta.
Mike Janyk 22/03/1982 Whistler, B.C.
John Kucera 17/09/1984 Calgary, Alta.
Manuel Osborne-Paradis 08/02/1984 Vancouver, B.C.
Trevor Philp 01/05/1992 Calgary, Alta.
Conrad Pridy 17/07/1988 Whistler, B.C.
Morgan Pridy 09/10/1990 Whistler, B.C.
Erik Read 31/05/1991 Calgary, Alta.
Brad Spence 19/04/1984 Calgary, Alta.
Ben Thomsen 25/08/1987 Invermere, B.C.
Sasha Zaitsoff 13/07/1990 Queens Bay, B.C.
*Invited to train with the Canadian team
Ladies’ Canadian Alpine Ski Team
Name Born Hometown
Marie-Michèle Gagnon 25/04/1989 Lac-Etchemin, Que.
Madison Irwin 18/07/1991 Toronto, Ont.
Erin Mielzynski 25/05/1990 Guelph, Ont.
Brittany Phelan 24/09/1991 Mont-Tremblant, Que.
Marie-Pier Préfontaine 18/10/1988 Saint-Sauveur, Que.
Elli Terwiel 16/04/1989 Sun Peaks, B.C.
Photo of Erik Guay by Gepa