The body language and chatter of athletes and coaches was enough for Phil McNichol to understand the importance of returning from racing this week at the Banff National Park Ski Resort in Lake Louise, Alta.
The only Canadian stop on the Alpine Ski World Cup circuit will host the season opener men’s downhill on Friday and Saturday and the super-G on Sunday after taking a season off during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the women’s competition next weekend.
“You can tell they’re really excited to be doing what they’re doing in front of the Canadiens and at home,” McNichol told CBC Sports, in his second season as Alpine High Performance Director with Alpine Canada. “Growing up, the [Canadian] athletes have competed in North American Cup events and other events here so there is a certain level of comfort and Lake Louise has an even deeper calming effect, especially with the nervousness of the first race .
“For the Europeans they compete all year round at home. It’s a great trip for them to come to North America, do a few weeks of training and racing. They are excited to be back.”
WATCH | Manny Osborne-Paradis gives an overview of Lake Louise and his last descent:
The absence of the popular Lake Louise event was not only felt in the local community from an economic standpoint, but a challenge for a sport struggling to be seen in North America in the best possible way. cases.
“I’m new to Alpine Canada and it’s no secret we are struggling to have the finances and support in such a small niche sport even though we are a strong winter country,” said McNichol. , who previously worked with the US Men’s Alpine Ski Team. . “We need these [World Cup] events and must be relevant in the minds and eyes of people, therefore Lake Louise is important. “
CBC Sports will provide live coverage at 2 p.m. ET on Friday and Saturday and Sunday at 2:15 p.m. ET. Saturday too, On the way to the Olympic Games, our weekly show featuring high performance athletes, will air on TV at 2 p.m. ET and 5 p.m. ET.
For the first time, the International Ski Federation awarded Lake Louise a second downhill for the men’s program, a format according to McNichol that has been “effective” on the women’s side for 12 years and should benefit Canadian skiers familiar with the trail.
Germany’s Thomas Dressen beat Italy’s Dominik Paris by 2-100th of a second in the men’s downhill the last time it was played in Lake Louise on November 30, 2019.
Jeff Read of Calgary was the top Canadian in 46th followed by Brodie Seger and Cam Alexander of North Vancouver, BC in 47th and 48th respectively, while Jack Crawford of Toronto was 57th.
Canadian men’s coach John Kucera, who won the 2006 Lake Louise Super G, and McNichol expect better results this weekend, given Seger and Crawford’s decisive seasons last year, as the Canadians and others are starting to work for the chance to be named to their respective country Olympic teams for Beijing in February.
Seger, 25, was fourth in super-G at the world championships last February, missing a bronze medal by 4-100th in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. Crawford, 24, also shone in the competition with a fourth place in the Alpine Combined, a demanding discipline that requires athletes to be experts in speed and technique. He is also 24th in the world super-G rankings.
WATCH | Seger narrowly misses the world championship podium:
At 27, speed specialist Broderick Thompson of Whistler, BC, is the oldest member of the men’s team. He finished ninth in super-G at his first world championships earlier this year after a two-year absence due to injury and could erupt this season, McNichol said.
Alexander, 24, is returning from a knee injury sustained during last year’s first downhill in Val-d’Isère, France. the long sections of the course which give their strength.
“This group is maturing in the speed events, and talking to the foreign coaches who have seen them on the glaciers or in training, people are taking notice,” McNichol said. “They’re pretty competitive with each other and you’re going to see some of their highlights from last year more consistently and go from those personal bests.”
McNichol added that Lake Louise is ideal for a season opener with all the elements from incline, terrain changes, technical jumps and tough gliding sections.
“It gives you what the descent asks for,” he said, “and this year the course organizers and team have gone out of their way to build some extra land in the hill the way they have. put the artificial snow on the hill and groomed it. It has more roll and camber characteristics and a different look than what we’ve seen. “
Ahead of Saturday’s races, there will be a downhill retirement from Canadian Manny Osborne-Paradis, who left the sport in October 2020 after 13 years of World Cup competition and 11 podium finishes. In 2006, a 22 year old Osborne-Paradis finished second in the downhill at Lake Louise.
Twelve years later, his career ended on the same course when North Vancouver-born Osborne-Paradis hit soft snow during a practice race in 2018 and catapulted himself headlong into a safety net, breaking his tibia (tibia) and fibula (calf bone). ).
WATCH | Osborne-Paradis discusses his decision to retire:
“Thinking about the journey of a four-year-old who skis on Mickey Mouse skis, to being on the podiums of the World Cup and the world championships always gives me goosebumps,” Osborne-Paradis said in a commentary. press release published by Alpine Canada. “It’s gonna be really amazing to have my wife [Lana] and two children [daughter Sloane and son Toby] there to see my last race in Lake Louise. “
Marie-Michèle Gagnon “in shape and ready”
Next weekend, the Canadians will be led by veteran skier Marie-Michèle Gagnon, who has just completed a stellar speed campaign. The 32-year-old from Lac-Etchemin, Que., Ended a five-year drought on the podium last January when she won bronze in the super-G in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, and placed sixth at the world super-G championships.
Gagnon, who placed 11th in the world in super-G last season and 16th in downhill, has had solid training all summer and just completed a training cycle at Copper Mountain, Colo. “She should come in [Lake Louise] fit and ready, ”McNichol said.
Roni Remme of Collingwood, Ont., Returns to the tracks after a year of absence from the World Cup circuit which included racing at the University of Utah and obtaining his biomedical engineering degree.
Remme reached his first World Cup podium in February 2019 with a silver medal in the Alpine Combined in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, and finished fifth at the World Championships in the same event in Åre, Sweden.
Later that year, the 25-year-old placed 36th at Lake Louise in downhill and super-G.
Remme competed last weekend in Levi, Finland, but failed to advance to the second round of the slalom on two consecutive days.
“Glad to leave Levi behind, we’ll give him another chance next year,” Remme said in an Instagram post. “There’s not much to say except that the work continues and it’s a long season.”
McNichol is also cheered on by Torontonian Ali Nullmeyer after the 23-year-old placed 14th in slalom at Levi after a career record on March 12 in Åre.