You know winter has truly started in Western Canada when the Lake Louise WinterStart Festival opens the Men’s FIS World Cup Downhill and Super-G season. For many racing fans at Sun Peaks Resort, this means it’s time to see if all that hard training by the Austrians in Sun Peaks each November has paid off. For Canadian racing fans it’s a chance to root for their hometown boys racing on home soil before they head off to the US and Europe as the White Circus rolls along.
With the 2010 Olympics coming home to Whistler in February, this season’s races in Lake Louise held that much more importance. With Canada at the top of its game in Alpine racing over the last several seasons, the 2010 Games are the bull’s eye on their dartboard.
Although snow threatened to cancel the event, Saturday’s downhill had all the best racers in the world chomping at the bit to get the 2009-2010 race season underway. In the end Swiss World Cup veteran Didier Cuche was victorious, followed by Werner Heel of Italy and Swiss teammate Carlo Janka. Canadians John Kucera and Robbie Dixon had strong finishes in sixth and eighth spots while veterans Manuel Osbourne-Paradis and Eric Guay finished in 16th and 21st.
Sunday was a brand new day for the first Super-G race of the season and the Canadian squad was pumped. Manuel Osbourne-Paradis laid down a blistering run to take the lead early in the event nervously waiting as the rest of the field tried to best his time. As fate would have it, it was the extreme misfortune of one of his teammates that may have helped Osbourne-Paradis to gold. Teammate John Kucera took a spill in the Gun Barrel section of the course and broke his leg hitting the safety netting. After a 20-minute delay, the race resumed but none could come close to Manuel’s time. Austria’s Benjamin Raich and Michael Walchhofer were second and third with Canadians Eric Guay and Robbie Dixon finishing fourth and fifth.
While Kucera’s injury was a bitter loss to the Canadian Alpine Team, there was a bright spot shining over young Robbie Dixon all weekend. A dark horse last season with some strong finishes from the back of the pack, Dixon showed he’s more than able to now fill the empty spot left by Kucera’s injury.
Although team dynamics may be affected in the short term, the Canadians are on the cusp of a great FIS World Cup and Olympic year. Go Canada go.