When Canadian alpine director Phil McNichol stated “confidence is king” it may have been a rally cry for the team as they finalize preparations for the world championships, starting tomorrow in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.
The event is streaming live on CBC Sports in Canada, see TV schedule
The 2020-21 season has been mostly mediocre for the Canadian team on the World Cup circuit. There have been some highlights and moments – one medal and a small handful of top 10 finishes – but as a whole they have no lived up to expectations. A bronze medal by Marie-Michèle Gagnon in a women’s super-G in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany is the marquee highlight with more than half of the season completed. Compare this to the U.S. ski team who have 11 World Cup medals between four skiers.
But McNichol is optimistic, stating a few Canadian skiers are “knocking on the door” to podium performances. Speaking to us recently from Northern Italy, where the women’s team fine tuning race preparations, McNichol said the team is excited and in good spirits. Alpine Canada named 13 skiers – seven women and six men – to the world championships roster. Ski Racing breaks down the outlook for the Canadian team.
It’s been a rough start at the worlds for race organizers with heavy snowfall wreaking havoc on the already jammed schedule. The women’s super-G is now scheduled for Tuesday.
WOMEN’S SPEED: Gagnon harnessing speed confidence
Who will start:
Downhill: Marie-Michèle Gagnon
Super-G: Gagnon, Val Grenier
Combined: Gagnon, Val Grenier
The women’s super-G could be the best chance for a Canadian podium finish. Gagnon’s bronze medal in Garmisch instilled confidence in the veteran (242 World Cup starts). It was also her first World Cup medal in five years and first in the speed events. “Garmisch was a big step for her, she’s making that transition to believing what she’s capable of [in speed events] and it’s exciting to see,” McNichol said.
Canadian Val Grenier, from St. Isidore, Ont., could be a darkhorse in the super-G. Just prior to a downhill crash in 2019 which sidelined her for over 18 months, Grenier finished fourth in the super-G at Cortina and has been speed training recently with Mikaela Shiffrin. According to McNichol, Grenier will also be in the mix in the combined and in the giant slalom. “She could strike lightning, she’s good enough that’s for sure,” he said.
WOMEN’S TECH: St-Germain, Mielzynski pack 1-2 punch
Who will start:
GS: Val Grenier, Cassidy Gray, Ali Nullmeyer, Amelia Smart
Slalom: Laurence St-Germain, Erin Mielzynski, Amelia Smart, Ali Nullmeyer
This is the deepest talent pool for the Canadian team. In slalom, Laurence St-Germain and Erin Mielzynski have both scored consistently in the top 20 in World Cups and appear to be in top form. “Laurence and Erin are gunning for podiums,” McNichol said. “Slalom is slalom and things happen but they’re podium skiers and we’ve had a couple phenomenal days of training.”
Grenier has scored three top 20 finishes in giant slalom, particularly impressive considering her return from injury. The young crew of Cassidy Gray, Ali Nullmeyer and Amelia Smart all have World Cup points and have been training strong, according to McNichol. “The podium may be out of reach [for them] but they’re extremely promising and it’s a great opportunity for them, he said. “Our expectations are kept in check but they’re going out there to perform.”
MEN’S SPEED: Crawford leads Gen Z crew
Who will start:
Downhill: Brodie Seger, Broderick Thompson, Jeff Read, Jack Crawford
Super-G: Seger, Thompson, J. Read, Crawford
Combined: Trevor Philp, Crawford, J. Read
Jack Crawford’s sixth place finish in the super-G at Kitzbuehel was a highlight for the young team decimated by early season injuries. Brodie Seger’s return in Garmisch also bolsters the depth and the team’s chances to score in Cortina.
The men’s speed team was off the pace in the last World Cup men’s downhill in Garmisch Partenkirchen, Germany, but McNichol was not overly concerned. “They have a lot more in them but they were fighting the conditions and it was not set up to really punch in there,” he said referring to the snow conditions which made it challenging to charge from later start positions.
“They have to believe in themselves because that’s the league they’re in now,” McNichol said. “I’m a big believer that confidence is king, it beats skill almost every day.”
Giant slalom specialist Trevor Philp recently scored impressive results at a Europa Cup super-G finishing 10th (Zinal, Switzerland) on consecutive days – as well as forerunning the Kitzbuehel super-G – so he could be in the mix for a start in the super-G. According to McNichol, Jeff Read could be a darkhorse in the combined, scheduled for Thursday Feb. 11th.
MEN’S TECH: Read – rested and ready
Who will start:
GS: Erik Read, Trevor Philp
Slalom: E. Read, Philp
The Canadian men’s tech group is small but Erik Read could provide a bright light for the team’s chances in slalom and GS. Read’s results on the World Cup have tapered off since a strong start to the season but he has consistently scored in the top 30. McNichol said Read has been “a little flat” after many months in Europe but recently rested for a number of consecutive days. Trevor Philp finished seventh in a Europa Cup in Folgaria, Italy, recently and appears to coming into top form.
PARALLEL: Double the fun
Who will start:
Women: Erin Mielzynski, Laurence St-Germain, Cassidy Gray, Ali Nullmeyer
Men: Erik Read, Jeff Read, Trevor Philp, Jack Crawford
For the first time the world championships will host individual and team parallel events. The Canadians have a history of success in team parallel, taking a silver medal at the worlds in 2015 (Beaver Creek, Colo.). Erik Read looked comfortable in the parallel in late November in Lech, Austria, and could challenge for a deep run.
Ali Nullmeyer (Toronto, ON/Georgian Peaks Ski Club)
Amelia Smart (Invermere, B.C./Team Panorama Ski Club)
Broderick Thompson (Whistler, B.C./Whistler Mountain Ski Club)
Brodie Seger (North Vancouver, B.C./Whistler Mountain Ski Club)
Cassidy Gray (Panorama, B.C./Team Panorama Ski Club)
Erik Read (Canmore, AB/Banff Alpine Racers)
Erin Mielzynski (Thornbury, ON/Georgian Peaks Ski Club)
James Crawford (Toronto, ON/Whistler Mountain Ski Club)
Jeffrey Read (Canmore, AB/Banff Alpine Racers)
Laurence St-Germain (St. Ferréol-les-Neiges, QC/Club de ski Mont Ste-Anne)
Marie-Michèle Gagnon (Lac-Etchemin, QC/Club de ski Mont Orignal)
Trevor Philp (Calgary, AB/Banff Alpine Racers)
Valérie Grenier (Mont-Tremblant, QC/Club de ski Mont-Tremblant)
Manuel Gamper (Women’s Head Coach, Alpine)
Mark Tilston (Men’s Head Coach, Alpine)
Phil McNichol (High-Performance Director, Alpine)