CALGARY, Canada – Eighteen of Canada’s top alpine athletes were named to the Canadian Alpine Ski Team on Thursday (May 15) ahead of a 2014-15 season that includes an action-packed World Cup schedule and the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail-Beaver Creek, Colo.
Eleven men and seven women will make up the national team, which is focused on fostering talent for the next two Olympic cycles.
A veteran group of three ‘Canadian Cowboys’ heads the roster for the men’s team: 2011 downhill world champion Erik Guay, who has a Canadian record of 22 World Cup podium finishes, Olympic bronze super G medalist Jan Hudec, and three-time World Cup winner Manuel Osborne-Paradis. Mike Janyk, John Kucera and Brad Spence, familiar faces on the World Cup circuit, retired this year, leaving room for young, upcoming talent like Morgan Pridy, Trevor Philp, Phil Brown and Erik Read to step into the spotlight.
An expanded women’s team that has grown by one-third since last year will be led by all-rounder Marie-Michéle Gagnon, who last season became the first Canadian to win a World Cup in super combined. Slalom specialist Erin Mielzynski – the first Canadian since 1971 to win a World Cup slalom race – is also back in action, helping blaze the way for a young but talented group with an eye on tackling multiple disciplines this season.
“In selecting this year’s team, we set the bar very high,” said Paul Kristofic, Alpine Canada’s vice-president of sports. “Our goal at Alpine Canada is to win medals, and we would like to be able to do that at all levels, from the World Cup to the Continental Cup. I believe the team we have named this year is capable of achieving those goals.
“For us, the key for the next quadrennial is to be able to deliver high-quality programming for the selected athletes so we can move them to the benchmarksthat they need to achieve to be on track for either the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, or for the 2022 Olympics. To do it right, we’ve named a leaner team so they get the quality of programming they need to succeed and be competitive internationally.”
Though there are fewer athletes who have been named to the national team compared to last season, Kristofic said a strong and thriving alpine development program will continue to foster a young talent pipeline of athletes to be in position to transition to the national team in future years. The Canadian development team will be announced next week.
Burkhard Schaffer will rejoin the men’s program as head coach of the speed team following an eight-year hiatus from Alpine Canada when he worked with Norway, Slovenia, and most recently as head coach for the Austrian men’s downhill team. Last season’s head coach and alpine director, Martin Rufener, will move to Alpine Canada’s executive team full-time as athletic director for the alpine program, and Italian-born Massimo ‘Max’ Carca and Jim Pollock will continue as head coaches of the men’s and women’s combined teams, respectively.
Burkhard is no stranger to athletes like Guay, from Mont-Tremblant, Que., Hudec, of Calgary, Alta., and Vancouver, B.C.’s Osborne-Paradis, who worked with him between 2000-2006 and are consistent podium contenders. Robbie Dixon, from Whistler, B.C., who has more than 10 World Cup finishes in the top 10, has been named to the team as he continues to work his way back from a major leg injury.
The 2014-15 men’s team also includes seven young talents: Morgan Pridy, from Whistler, B.C., – who logged an impressive 10th-place finish in super G at the Sochi Olympics – Brown, of Toronto, Ont., Dustin Cook, of Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que., Calgary’s Philp and Read, and two athletes who raced on last season’s development team, Morgan Megarry, of Collingwood, Ont., and Tyler Werry, from Calgary.
“There’s a real balance present on this year’s team,” Kristofic said. “There is a core group of veterans who are highly capable on the World Cup, and any one of them can be on the podium on any weekend. Also on the team is a skilled group who are the next wave of athletes. It’s an exciting group – the mean age is very young – and they have multi-discipline talent that will be great to watch in the next four to eight years.”
Ben Thomsen, who struggled last season following a stellar podium finish in 2012 at a pre-Olympic World Cup in Sochi, and Ford Swette, a member of last season’s development squad, did not meet qualification criteria but have been invited by the coaching staff to train with the team as a continued opportunity to work towards meeting performance goals.
The women’s team features World Cup regulars Gagnon, of Lac-Etchemin, Que., Guelph’s Mielzynski, and Britt Phelan, of Mont-Tremblant. Larisa Yurkiw, from Owen Sound, Ont., who raced independently last season and earned two top-10 World Cup finishes in 2013-14, has been named to the team, as well as promising up-and-comers Mikaela Tommy, of Wakefield, Que., Toronto’s Candace Crawford, and Julia Roth, from Waterloo, Ont. Tommy, Crawford and Roth raced on last season’s development team.
“It’s really a multi-event team,” Kristofic said. “This year’s women’s team covers everything from slalom to athletes like Julia Roth running downhill at the Continental and Europa Cup level. It covers the full gamut of disciplines, and the athletes will be very busy in the off-season prepping.”
Like Thomsen and Swette, Marie-Pier Préfontaine, of Saint-Sauveur, Que., and Toronto’s Madison Irwin have been invited to train with the team.
A long-term goal, Kristofic said, is to bring a women’s speed team back to the forefront.
“We’re accommodating as best as we can, and we are giving athletes who are running multiple disciplines as many opportunities as possible to run speed in training and racing. The goal is to continue to build up athletes on the speed side during the next quadrennial, so we can once again have a standalone women’s speed team. We need the critical mass before that’s possible.
“We’re putting a heavy focus on strong programming and great coaching across all the teams, and we expect to see good things from the athletes.”
Athletes Julien Cousineau, from Lachute, Que., Conrad Pridy, of Whistler, B.C., Mont-Tremblant’s Jeffrey Frisch, Nelson, B.C.’s Sasha Zaitsoff and Elli Terwiel, from Sun Peaks, B.C., did not meet the qualifying criteria for the upcoming season’s national team, and are either continuing to work towards qualification or are moving on to pursue different goals.
Men’s 2014-15 Canadian Alpine Ski Team
Women’s 2014-15 Canadian Alpine Ski Team
The following athletes have been invited to train with the national team: Madison Irwin, Marie-Pier Préfontaine, Ford Swette, Ben Thomsen.