Canadian Cowboys put on a show

Manuel Osborne-Paradis came agonizingly close to his first World Cup podium in three years when he finished just four-hundredths of a second behind the third-place finisher in Friday’s downhill in Beaver Creek, USA, while his teammate Jan Hudec was seventh and Erik Guay was 16th as the Canadian Cowboys put on a show.

Osborne-Paradis, from Vancouver, B.C., started fifth and produced a superb run on a hill that hasn’t been kind to him in the past to clock a time of one minute, 44.74 seconds. He took the lead at the end of his run but was eventually pushed back into fourth place, with Italy’s Peter Fill finishing third in 1:44.70. Hudec, of Calgary, Alta., was also flying but a couple of mistakes in the middle part of the course slowed him down.

“Another fourth! It’s just a matter of time before I get a podium,” said Osborne-Paradis, a three-time World Cup winner who was also fourth in the downhill in Kvitfjell, Norway, at the end of last season.

“I’m skiing better and I’m skiing faster and more confidently. It’s really just about putting it all together. My run was pretty clean. I made a mistake on the pitch and came out a little low and that probably cost me the race, but that’s racing.”

Osborne-Paradis, who made a strong return to racing last season following injury, is fit and healthy and looks like he could be in the best form of his career. Last weekend he all but punched his ticket to the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games with a 12th-place finish in the super-G and on Friday he set the pace with a clean run.

“I finished off last year with a fourth and today I got a fourth on a course I normally don’t do well on,” said Osborne-Paradis, whose previous best result in a World Cup downhill in Beaver Creek was a 23rd-place finish in 2008. “I kind of knew I was getting the wooden spoon but Jan and I and Erik are all skiing well – we are all there. It’s just putting it together at the right time.”

Hudec, who also virtually secured his spot on the plane to Sochi with a 10th-place finish in the super-G at Lake Louise last weekend, skied well but made a few mistakes.

“I’m stoked to have another top 10,” said Hudec, who crossed the line in 1:45.17. “Manny and I both owe a big thank you to our serviceman, who absolutely nailed the wax and did a great job on the skis.

“I knew Manny had killed it when I went up for my run and that gave me a huge boost of confidence.”

Hudec struggled with both the cold temperatures and poor visibility but persevered to the end.

“I was coming up to the pitch and I was totally frozen,” said Hudec, a world championship medallist and Olympian. “I knew I had to man up and ski as aggressively as I could. I skied really well. I made a couple of mistakes in the middle section but besides that it was good.”

Norwegian superstar Aksel Lund Svindal, starting 22nd, took the win with a time of 1:44.50. Austria’s Hannes Reichelt was second in 1:44.67. Guay, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., who also pre-qualified for nomination to Canada’s team for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games on the back of an eighth-place finish in the Lake Louise downhill, crossed the line in 1:45.70.

“It was a good day,” said Martin Rufener, head coach of Canada’s men’s alpine team. “Manny was so close to the podium. It’s a really technical downhill so it was a nice result for him. Erik has still not had many training days on the speed side but he was skiing well.
To have two in the top seven and to just miss the podium – we’re very happy.”

Jeffrey Frisch, also of Mont-Tremblant, was the next best Canadian – finishing 40th in 1:47.62. Ben Thomsen, of Invermere, B.C., was 46th (1:48.10), while Dustin Cook, of Lac-Sainte-Marie, Que., and Conrad Pridy, of Whistler, B.C., did not finish the race.

“Conrad hurt his hip a little but he’s OK,” Rufener said. “Dustin just skied out.”