Following a string of top-five finishes at the world championships over the past week – three in alpine and two in ski cross – the Canadian team is looking to finish strong in Cortina with a podium finish in the technical events.
Live coverage of the men’s and women’s giant slalom streams Thursday Feb. 18th starting at 4 a.m. EST on CBC (second runs at 7:30am EST)
There must be a level of satisfaction within the Canadian team with the competitive finishes but rarely is a top five at the worlds remembered or celebrated. But a world championships medal can fix that.
Rising start Jack Crawford put on an impressive display in the men’s combined, with the fastest time in the super-G portion and finishing fourth after a surprisingly-strong slalom leg. Starting with bib No. 32, Crawford, of Toronto, scorched the super-G course and then looked composed in the slalom despite no World Cup experience in that discipline.
Two other Canadians joined him in the top 15. Trevor Philp, of Calgary, scored his best individual result at his fifth world championships appearance finishing in 10th, while speed racer Broderick Thompson, of Whistler, finished just behind in 11th, his best result since a near two-year return to the World Cup after a serious leg injury. Jeff Read, of Canmore, Alb., was sitting in 15th after the super-G run but was forced to hike after a mistake in the slalom, finishing in 22nd.
“It was a great redemption after the downhill, which was not where we needed it to be,” said Alpine Canada’s Phil McNichol. “They came back charging [Tuesday] … Jack’s slalom was really impressive, and he skied a phenomenal super-G.”
In the women’s combined, both Marie-Michèle Gagnon, of Lac-Etchemin, Que., and Valérie Grenier, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., were sitting in 11th and 13th after the super-G portion but did not finish the slalom race.
Last week, Brodie Seger finished an impressive fourth place in the men’s super-G, while Gagnon finished sixth, the best two finishes for the Canadian team to this point of the worlds. Reece Howden, the worlds No. 1 ranked ski cross racer, as well as newcomer Courtney Hoffos, of Invermere, B.C., both finished fifth in the men’s and women’s ski cross.
In the team giant slalom parallel on Wednesday, the Canadian team beat out the Czech Republic in the 1/8th finals but lost to the Swiss team in the quarters. The Swiss team went on to finish second behind the Norwegian team, with Germany in third.
Mix of collegiate and veteran talent take on tech events
With the giant slalom races scheduled for Thursday, the Canadians will field a young team, comprised mostly of current and former collegiate racers.
Up-and-comers Cassidy Gray and Amelia Smart, both of Invermere, B.C., a small town in the Kootenays, will get the start in the women’s GS, along with Ali Nullmeyer, of Toronto, and Valérie Grenier, of Mont Tremblant, who looked solid in the super-G portion of the combined on Monday and has three top 20 finishes on the World Cup in her long-awaited return from injury.
For the men’s GS race, Erik Read, of Canmore, Alb., should provide a push for the podium after a few rest days. Alongside Trevor Philp, who has been rounding into form, the two Canadian veterans will be two to watch.
The Canadian women’s slalom team, scheduled for Friday, is deep and talented with Laurence St-Germain and Erin Mielzynski both aiming to score among the top group. Both skiers have finished consistently in the top 20 in World Cups and appear to be in top form. They will be joined by Smart and Nullmeyer in the slalom.