Osborne-Paradis wins first World Cup super-G in Lake Louise
The men's World Cup season's first super-G was held in Lake Louise, Canada, and things went well for the home team. Manuel Osborne-Paradis (1:32.93) took the win much to the delight of thousands of screaming, bell-ringing fans. He was joined in the top-ten by teammates Erik Guay (forth) and Robbie Dixon (fifth). It was the Canadian's strongest World Cup super-G result ever.
The Austrians also had a great day as Benjamin Raich (1:33.17) and Michael Walchhofer (1:33.55) bookended the podium in second and third, respectively.
Osborne-Paradis was the seventh racer down the course, beating the previous six racers by almost a whole second, but he was surprised his time held up through the World Cup's top ranked super-G skiers.
"Did anybody else expect this? Cause I didn't" joked Osborne-Paradis in the finish area. "I think "Bet and Win" made a lot of money today, cause nobody won on that bet. I didn't think it was going to stick but I'm glad it did."
After being shut out of the podium in yesterday's downhill the Austrians we're back on top as Raich matched a career best super-G result in second and Walchhofer grabbed his 41st career World Cup podium.
"In super-G I am skiing very well, so to get second place here is very exciting to me," said Raich. "It's important to start strong it's good for your self-confidence. It's a good start."
His teammate Walchhofer was also pleased to regain his footing in the World Cup standings. "To have a successful run today and this good finish is very important for me for the self-confidence for the rest off the season," said Walchhofer. "It's very important, not just for Benni [Raich], but for the whole team, that we are strong."
It was Osborne-Paradis' first World Cup super-G win and his second overall. "I've been getting miles better in GS and obviously if you're a good GS skier you can ski pretty much any event really well," said the 25-year-old racer. "It's a balls-out kind of racing here, you get an inspection and you go for it."
The great day for the Canadian team was marred when their teammate John Kucera, last season's world champion downhiller, fell in the fall line section of the course, breaking a bone in his lower left leg. He was taken off the course by helicopter and taken to a hospital in Banff, causing a half-hour race delay. It was the second serious injury on the course in as many days, as American racer TJ Lanning was airlifted off the course with a fractured vertebrae and knee damage during yesterday's downhill. Both injuries are expected to require surgery.
Osborne-Paradis was excited for the team's success but mindful of his fallen teammate. "First, fourth, fifth, it's awesome for the team. Johnny [Kucera] was coming down doing really well," he said. "I don't know what's going on with him yet but I hope that it's minor and he can come back as well and start ripping it with the team."
Alpine Canada Team Director Max Gartner said the day was one of mixed emotions. "I think the results are outstanding but right now my heart is with John Kucera," he said. "Looks like he has a serious injury so it's kind of a bitter sweet for us."
Dixon, better than his fifth place finish only once in his relatively short career, said he had scared himself during his run, barely navigating the gate coming out of the steepest section of the course, Gun Barrel. "I stuck with it and fought to the end," he said, calling the fifth place result "awesome" under the circumstances.
Much like yesterday's race here, the weather produced some challenges as light snowfall and flat lighting conditions came and went throughout the race.
American Ted Ligety was the third racer out of the gate and skied fast enough for a sixth-place finish, one spot shy of his career super-G best.
"I just knew I had to go for it, it doesn't mean anything if I get far back in the top-30 for me so I was really going for it and skied clean the whole way," said Ligety. "I'm happy with it for sure, it's tough with all the wind and light changing but I'm happy to be in there."
Aksel Lund Svindal, the defending overall and super-G champion is nursing a sore leg and was content with a 14th-place finish, indicating he skied more as a warm up for Beaver Creek next weekend.
"The doctors were kind of negative about me skiing here so in that way it's way better than it could have been," said Svindal. "To go to Beaver Creek not having done one turn in six weeks. ... Beaver Creek is too tough for that so I felt like I needed to get a little bit done before I get there."
One couldn't help but notice the void left by last season's super-G winner here, Austrian Hermann Maier, who shocked the ski racing world when the legend announced his retirement in this October.
"It's unfortunate not to have him around anymore, obviously he was a force and a lot of fun to race against but at the same time I think it's kind of cool I can say I was the last guy to stand on a podium with Hermann Maier when he won," said Kucera in an earlier interview. "He brought a new dimension to it, he was a real power skier and when he was in his prime he was unstoppable and he was fun to watch ski and there is definitely lots to learn from his intensity and his focus and determination."
The highly-competitive Austrian team, however, was not as sentimental. "We don't miss him," said Walchhofer.
The men's World Cup competition now shifts to Beaver Creek, Colorado, while the women will travel to Lake Louise from Aspen in the next few days.
By Eric Williams/ Ski Racing Magazine www.skiracing.com