The quick rebuild of the Canadian men’s speed team appears to be nearing completion.
With the torch now passed from the likes of Erik Guay and Jan Hudec to a hard-charging group of talented and resilient mid-20s young men, the speed team is poised to make a splash on the World Cup tour, as early as this season. Mix in the mentoring of grizzled veteran Manny Osborne-Paradis – who will be back on snow this fall after a near career-ending leg break just under two years ago – and the season looks promising.
The core group of six skiers are now in quarantine, resting up from a marathon seven week speed block in Saas Fee, Switzerland which according to Alpine Canada’s Phil McNichol, puts them ahead of last year in terms of speed training days heading into the season.
“It was amazingly impressive to see how sharp and motivated and focussed they were [during the camp] … the work capacity was beyond exceptional,” said McNichol, on a call from the team hotel in Switzerland. “They were firing on all cylinders … pretty damned impressive.”
McNicol said the team was “holding their own” against their European counterparts in Saas Fee where most nations were training through September, at times together to increase the compete level and gauge progress with competitors. “They were very competitive with each other and against other teams, winning a lot of [timed] runs and being in the mix. It’s still early but that’s a good sign,” he said.
Led by head coach John Kucera (former world downhill champion from 2009), the group has been carefully cultivated and developed over the past few years. “Johnny runs a really tight ship, I was highly impressed with his coaches, his staff and service people … they were working really well together.”
Here is our rundown on the Canadian men’s speed team heading into the 2021 season.
24-years-old from North Vancouver, B.C.
29 WC starts
WR 37 in super-G, 42 in downhill
Brodie Seger has carved out an impressive path to the World Cup. After dominating the NorAm circuit in 2017 and 2018 which earned him a World Cup spot (he has finished in the top 30 six times with a personal best of 13th place in the Beaver Creek downhill last December) he appears to be positioned to become a regular World Cup points contender.
The eldest Seger on the team – his younger brother Riley doubles on both the tech and speed team – has made massive strides and has learned the ropes of the rigorous demands of being a full time World Cup skier. He knows the race courses, the nuances of local cultures and is surrounded by a strong team.
Prediction: 4-5 top 20 World Cup finishes.
23-years-old from North Vancouver, B.C.
9 WC starts
WR 25 in downhill
When the Whistler Mountain Ski Club product earned a fifth place at the world junior championships (super-G) in 2018 the writing was on the wall that the 23-year-old could be a World Cup regular, but how rapid his progression has been since then has been remarkable.
The head-turning 10th place finish at the season-ending downhill earlier this year in Kvitfjell, Norway, has put him squarely on the map as a top 20 contender for this season.
Prediction: 4-5 top 20 World Cup finishes, one top 10.
26 years-old from Whistler, B.C.
37 WC starts
Broderick Thompson may be the best ski racer that you’ve never heard of. In 2018, a time when Guay, Ben Thomsen and Osborne-Paradis were perennial challengers on the Tour, the then 24-year-old Thompson was battling the team vets hard in training – more often than not leading the pack – but then hard luck struck, and struck hard.
A horrific training crash in November 2018 at Nakiska, Alberta, left Thompson with a mangled knee and a year-and-a-half of hard physio and return-to-snow protocols ahead of him. With 37 World Cup starts under his belt and two 23rd place Olympic finishes (PyeongChang) and a season rank of 10th in alpine combined in 2018 we will see how long it takes to regain his confidence.
“Broderick is doing well, he’s not having any physical issues and is training at full capacity,” said McNichol, after Thompson rejoined his teammates on full program in Saas Fee. “He’s still building back up but is in the mix. Extremely encouraging.”
Prediction: Mileage, repetition. Possibly finishing in the points (top 30) a couple times.
23-years-old from Toronto, Ontario
33 WC starts (5 times in top 30)
WR 22 in super-G
At the ripe age of 18, Jack Crawford burst onto the world scene with five top 5 finishes at the world junior championships back in 2016. A feat still marvelled at today. Since then the Toronto native who started his FIS development journey with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, Crawford has levelled off to a degree, with five top 30 finishes, all in super-G since he started a more regular journey on the World Cup in 2018. The 12th place finish at Hinterstoder, Austria, in February could be a sign of things to come this season.
Prediction: 4-5 finishes in the points (top 30). One top 15.
23-years-old from Vancouver, B.C.
15 WC starts
5 NorAm wins
The talented Sam Mulligan, who earned a silver medal in the downhill at the world junior championships in 2018, is coming off his first full season on the World Cup tour, landing in the points in the alpine combined in Hinterstoder, Austria.
Using his strength and dynamic technique, the Vancouverite started his path with the Grouse Tyee Ski Club and his coaches have high expectations for Mulligan to compete for World Cup points on a more regular basis.
Prediction: WC experience, 2-3 times in the points.
22-years-old from Canmore, Alberta
21 WC starts, 10 EC starts
15 NorAm podiums (9 wins)
A four-event skier, Jeff Read originally made his World Cup debut in the Wengen downhill in 2018. Claiming the overall NorAm downhill title (second overall) last season, along with a variety of highlights in multiple events, the Mt. Norquay-raised ski racer appears ready to make the progression to full time World Cup status. He finished just out of the points in at Kitzbuhel (downhill), Saalbach (super-G) and Garmisch (downhill), and has been knocking on the door.
With his brother Erik on the World Cup technical circuit, their paths rarely cross but the Read brothers are carrying on the family legacy – his mother Lynda Robbins competed on the national team in the 1970s along with his “Crazy Canuck” father Ken Read.
Prediction: WC experience, 2-3 times in the points.
180 WC starts
11 podium finishes (3 wins)
Perhaps saving the best for last, veteran Manny Osborne-Paradis is finally nearing a return after a horrific injury which was so bad that there was some concern over losing a leg. But the warrior is not done yet and within weeks of the injury stated his intentions to return to the World Cup tour, where he has amassed 3 wins and 11 podium finishes in 180 World Cup starts since 2005.
Even with minimal days on snow since the injury, Osborne-Paradis said he’s on track to return to the Canadian team full time at some point with the goal of competing at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
“He has been pounding away physically and making good strides,” said McNichol. “But for him to come out and jump in the fray on European glaciers [in Saas Fee] wasn’t an ideal situation. We talked about it but we decided let’s hold off as he’s moving so well on his physical side.”
Prediction: NorAm race starts. One World Cup start.