Manuel Osborne-Paradis won a national downhill title in his visit home and Marie-Michele Gagnon continued her dominance at the Canadian Alpine Championships, which saw tremendous conditions and competitive racing in its return to Whistler.
In his first race on Whistler Mountain since the 2010 Olympics, Osborne-Paradis clocked a time of one minute, 1.97 seconds on the Dave Murray National Training Centre course to win the second Canadian downhill title of his career on Saturday (March 23).
Jeffrey Frisch (+0.67) and John Kucera (+0.82), both two-time winners of the national downhill race in years past, finished second and third, respectively.
“It feels really good to be around here and back home,” Osborne-Paradis said after the victory, adding that winning the national title had “massive significance” for him.
“Especially this year, coming back from injury and skiing well, this just cements that … I’m back. I think it will bode well with all my sponsors, being able to say, ‘Hey listen, in downhill right now I can win national titles, it’s not a problem.’ ”
In the women’s downhill held Sunday (March 24), Larisa Yurkiw also claimed her second title in the discipline, her first coming in 2008 when the Canadian Championships were also in Whistler.
“It’s nice to get that back,” said Yurkiw, 24. “I raced well today and risked in some places, but it worked to my advantage. I feel good.
“This year was a bit of a grind and I was definitely hungry coming into nationals. Some years, it’s a place to work on your technique, but for me this year, I want results and I’m really happy with today.”
Runner-up Gagnon was 0.38 seconds behind Yurkiw, while Julia Roth (+1.09) took the bronze.
Gagnon was unbeatable, however, over the next two days, capturing Monday’s (March 25) super-G and winning her fourth-consecutive slalom crown on Tuesday (March 26). She edged Yurkiw by 0.17 seconds on Monday, while Roth was third overall and the top junior.
Tuesday’s race was shaping up to be a battle between Gagnon and World Cup teammate Erin Mielzynski, but Gagnon was able to cruise to victory when Mielzynski failed to finish the opening run. The Lac-Etchemin, Que., native won the slalom by more than 3 ½ seconds over Eve Routhier and Sun Peaks skier Elli Terwiel.
“I know Erin wants it pretty bad, too. We’re always going head-to-head — in training and World Cup racing. I told her: ‘You’ll have to trip over my dead body to get this title,’ ” joked Gagnon. “It was too bad she went out, we’re always very close and it would have been an exciting race.”
Gagnon has collected nine national titles in total since 2009. The 23-year-old said the easygoing atmosphere at the Canadian Championships has something to do with her success in the event.
“For sure, I’m more relaxed,” she said. “Sometimes at World Cup, you over-think things or you’re just nervous, and things can start to fall apart. Being relaxed and having fun (helps).”
Monday’s super-G races also featured a send-off party for the retired Kelly Vanderbeek, and saw Jeffrey Frisch capture the men’s title. Wearing bib No. 1, the Quebec resident took advantage of his start position and posted a time that held up as the snow softened for other racers. Calgary’s Tyler Werry was the runner-up and Osborne-Paradis placed third.
“I was happy with the way I skied,” said Manny. “It was hard to push the limit as much with the softer snow. A podium’s a podium.”
Up-and-coming youngster Trevor Philp captured the men’s giant slalom race held Tuesday, hanging on to his first-run lead to beat top-three finishers Phil Brown and Werry. Philp lost a pole on the second run but managed to take top spot anyhow.
“I skied the last three-quarters of the course without a pole but it wasn’t so bad,” said Philp.
Whistler’s Mike Janyk recorded the fastest second-run time and finished eighth overall.
Many other local skiers recorded good results during nationals. Morgan and Conrad Pridy finished fourth and sixth, respectively, in downhill for their best finishes of the week. Brodie Seger’s 14th-place finish overall on Tuesday made him the top U18 skier and gave him a top-20 result in all three races, while fellow B.C. Ski Team member Broderick Thompson was 15th in super-G and 17th in GS.
Whistler’s Emma King and Pemberton’s Charley Field were solid in the women’s speed races, both finishing in the top 10 on Sunday and Monday. King’s seventh-place finish in downhill was her best, while Field reached eighth in super-G. Among the youngest in the field, Kelly Steeves netted her best finish in downhill by placing 16th.
The Canadian Championships set to conclude after press time Wednesday (March 27), with the men’s slalom and women’s GS being the last races on the schedule. Janyk was trying for a record fifth slalom title, while Gagnon was attempting to defend the giant slalom title she won in 2011, as last year’s GS race was cancelled due to weather conditions.