Whistler’s Dave Duncan had the weekend of his life at Innichen-San Candido, Italy, in the days before Christmas with both his first and second career wins on the World Cup ski cross circuit to take the overall series lead.
Marielle Thompson, also of Whistler, added a silver medal on the second day of competition to retake the overall lead in the women’s standings, while Kelsey Serwa earned a silver on the first day of competition — her first podium since undergoing knee surgery in the off season.
Brady Leman of Calgary also won a bronze medal on the first day, and came close again on day two.
In Canada, ski cross falls under the banner of Alpine Canada, even though it’s considered a freestyle discipline by the International Skiing Federation (FIS). As a result, Alpine Canada can claim seven medals on the weekend with the men’s alpine speed team adding two more podiums — a silver medal for Jan Hudec in the super G and a gold medal for Erik Guay in the downhill at Val Gardena, Italy.
It was Guay’s 20th career World Cup, tying him with Steve Podborski for the most of any Canadian athlete. One more will make Guay the winningest Canadian skier of all time.
Canada’s eighth medal was in aerials, with Ontario’s Travis Gerrits winning his first World Cup in front of 40,000 fans at Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing.
Duncan going to Sochi, leading World Cup
For Duncan, the double win in Italy was hard to describe.
“It’s an incredible feeling and I struggle for words to truly describe how much it means to me to get that first win and not to have to wait 24 hours to get a second one in,” he said, quoting a Facebook message from a friend: “From the outhouse to the penthouse.”
The result guaranteed Duncan a spot in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
“This is the stuff you dream of,” he said. “You never really expect it to happen, even though you work your butt off for it. Everything kind of went my way.
“To be able to put the Sochi qualification behind me before Christmas… It will definitely take a lot of pressure off for those last three qualifying races in January.”
The first medal was all Duncan’s with him leading every run from the start. The second medal was made possible by a pass of German skier Daniel Bohnacker, with Duncan remaining patient and waiting for the leader to make a mistake. Meanwhile Brady Leman was on pace for another medal on day two, but collided with Austria’s Andy Matt off a jump and went of course. He finished fourth on the day.
Lately Thompson has been enjoying the races as much as the results, and the women’s final was no different. She was first out of the gates in the final, but was passed by Katrin Mueller of Switzerland at the halfway point. Thompson chased but ran out of time. “Today was awesome,” she said. “I won every start and really showed where my skiing is at.”
Guay back on top
Quebec’s Erik Guay has battled injuries and countless near-misses in recent years, and while he’s still earning podiums for Canada the wins have been hard to come by. His last World Cup win was almost four years ago in super G.
That changed in Val Gardena/Groeden, Italy, on Saturday (Dec. 21) with Guay winning the downhill race. On the top half of the course he was nowhere near the fastest skiers, but he took an aggressive line on one section of the course that nobody came close to matching to take the win.
“I skied as well as I could at the top (of the course) with the light and then picked it up from halfway down to the finish,” he said. “I knew the lines I could take, and I was right on the borderline in terms of risk.”
The win put Guay’s career World Cup medal total at 20. The 32-year-old will need one more podium to set a new Canadian record for men, tying Steve Podborski for the honour.
“I don’t want to stop there,” said Guay. “I want to own the record outright. But to tie it here, especially on this hill where we’ve had so much success and a long tradition of Canadians being on the podium, is great.”
Podborski himself joined Guay on the conference call after the race to support his ambitions. “I want him to break every record as soon as possible,” he said. “There are so many things to do in alpine skiing. I want him to win every race.”
Whistler’s Manuel Osborne-Paradis took another step forward to getting back on the podium with a seventh place finish, while Jan Hudec — second in the super G the day before — placed ninth.
Other Whistler skiers, Conrad Pridy and Robbie Dixon, were 39th and 53rd.