Sport Shorts: Joy, Pain on the Slopes of Lake Louise

At Lake Louise: On Sunday, skier Manuel Osborne-Paradis added to what is becoming a stellar resume. Normally a downhill specialist, the Invermere, B.C. native slashed down the first super-G race of the year at Lake Louise to win his first-ever World Cup gold in the event. It was his seventh career World Cup medal and the second gold. Two other Canadian ski racers cracked the top five, just missing the podium. Montreal’s Erik Guay finished fourth – the same position he achieved at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, in the same super-G event. Right behind him in fifth spot was Whistler’s Robbie Dixon, who achieved his second-best ever World Cup.

These extremely promising results unfortunately told just one-half of the story. In this same super-G race, 2009 world downhill champion John Kucera lost an edge in an icy stretch of the course and crashed into the fence. The Calgary native was airlifted from the mountain and diagnosed with a fractured tibia and fibula in his left leg. This broken leg will almost certainly cost Kucera a shot at recapturing his World Championship magic during the Olympic Winter Games.

Synchro Team Rises in Montreal: The Canadian synchronized swimming team continued its rise on Sunday by capturing the FINA World Trophy. In Montreal, they won the 10-nation event finishing 0.333 points ahead of Russia, which has dominated the sport for many years. Canada finished with 491.666 points to Russia’s 491.333. It was the team’s first gold medal in an international event since winning the Olympic title in 1992. For a full rundown see:

A Luge Record in Austria: The Canadian luge team made their mark over the weekend at a World Cup in Ingls, Austria. In a sport dominated by Europeans – particularly Germany – four Canadians took home gold in the team event. Alex Gough, Sam Edney and brothers Chris and Mike Moffat (all of Calgary) had a combined time of 2:10.864, more than a full second ahead of second-place Austria. Though the team event is not yet contested at the Olympic level, these results show that individually, Canadian lugers are growing stronger and stronger.

In singles action, Alex Gough nailed her second career World Cup fourth-place finish on Saturday. Gough is holding her own now against the world’s best and proving that at any event she is a true medal contender.

Aquatic Action in Toronto: At the Etobicoke Olympium, the Canadian swim team unveiled its 2009-10 edition, which includes 11 swimmers who set world records last season. It was the Canada Cup, the first major national meet where swimsuits had to conform to new international rules that will take full effect on New Year’s Day. At the Cup, Vancouver’s Brent Hayden lowered the meet record in 50-metre freestyle. He has six medals already this year in World Cups. New Canada Cup records were also set by Victoria’s Ryan Cochrane in the 1,500-metre freestyle and by Zack Chetrat (Oakville, Ont.) in the 200-metre butterfly. For full results, see:

Challenges in Finland: The national cross-country skiing team experienced a rough week with travel delays, a hip injury sustained by head coach Inge Braten, and only two skiers cracking the top-40. Canmore, Alberta skiers Ivan Babikov and Sara Renner finished as the top Canadian man and woman with 38th in the 15 km classic and 39th in the 10 km, respectively. Olympic champion Chandra Crawford, who hadn’t raced in a year, continues to work on conditioning and had a positive result of 64th. The team aims to peak in time for the Olympic Winter Games. They race next weekend in Dusseldorf, Germany.