Eric Guay crowned downhill world champion

Canada’s Erik Guay has been crowned the downhill world champion after a golden performance at Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Saturday.

The 29-year-old, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., laid down a scintillating early run on the Kandahar course to give Canada back-to-back world champions in downhill, following John Kucera’s victory at Val d’Isere in 2009.

Guay becomes the first Canadian male alpine skier to win gold at the World Ski Championships as well as the Crystal Globe, after claiming the overall World Cup title in super-G at Garmisch last year.

“I’m on another planet right now. I’m pretty emotional and I’m just trying to take it all in,” said Guay, who now has five podiums, including three wins, at Garmisch since 2007.

“John won it two years ago and I was there to see that. He wasn’t able to defend his title but I’m glad to keep it going. It’s a pretty special feeling.”

Wearing bib No. 10, Guay laid down a run of one minute, 58.41 seconds that was never beaten.

Swiss veteran Didier Cuche was 0.32 seconds back in second place and Christof Innerhofer, of Italy, was third (1:59.17).

“It wasn’t flawless but it was a good run, for sure,” said Guay. “I was able to stay calm and stick to my game plan and hit the really key areas with speed. I was pushing to my limits.”

Guay, whose family was watching the race back in Calgary, said it was special for him to be able to extend Canada’s grip on the downhill title won in 2009 by Calgary’s Kucera, who is currently working his way back from a serious leg injury.

“It seems like the planets aligned. I had a great start number and my back felt good,” said Guay, who has been struggling with a nagging back injury.

“I always feel good when I come to Garmisch. It’s a hill where I feel like I can charge everywhere. It’s a pretty special place for me.”

Paul Kristofic, Canada’s head coach, said Guay’s performance and result was a victory for the whole Canadian Alpine Ski Team.

“That was a huge effort from Erik, a really courageous push,” said Kristofic.

“There are a lot of emotions right now. It’s been a battle this year but this is something that shows we are doing the right things.”

The men’s speed team has been hit hard by injuries this season, with Manuel-Osborne Paradis, of Vancouver, B.C., the latest skier to go down.

“It’s one of those things where you get everyone working hard towards a common goal. We’ve had a lot of setbacks,” said Kristofic.

“It’s been a huge effort from the racers but also from all the trainers, doctors, all the others involved. It’s a massive amount of people and it’s the culmination of a lot of things.”

Canada’s streak of world championship podiums was started by Calgary’s Jan Hudec, who won silver at Are, Sweden, in 2007. Kucera won gold in the downhill at Val d’Isere in 2009, and Michael Janyk, of Whistler, B.C., claimed bronze in the slalom.

“This is something you only get to experience once or twice in a lifetime and we’ve been fortunate to get back-to-back world championships,” said Kristofic.

Young Ben Thomsen, of Invermere, B.C., also skied extremely well once again to finish 18th with a time of 2:01.18.

“It was an excellent run,” said Kristofic of the 23-year-old Thomsen’s race. “Every time we put him on a race track he’s getting faster and faster.

“He’s in some pretty serious company there. We couldn’t be happier with the way he’s skiing.”

Calgary’s Jan Hudec was 25th after clocking a time of 2:02.45.