Pre-Olympic Sport Flashes: A Great Week

It is Friday, January 8, 2010. Vancouver will host Canada’s third Olympic Opening Ceremony five weeks from today. This first month of the year represents an avalanche of sport events across the globe as Canadian winter athletes take their last shots at testing their mettle or take their final shots at making the Olympic team.

What follows are just a few reasons for Canadian fans to celebrate this past week.

This morning, Melissa Hollingsworth continued to show that she is the woman to beat in the sport of skeleton. The Eckville, Alberta native set a new track record in her second run with 48.78 seconds (crushing the previous mark of 49.21). Hollingsworth was Canadian champion at the age of 15, and now at 29, she sets her sights on a second Olympic medal. She is seeking to upgrade her 2006 bronze to something new at the Whistler Sliding Centre.

On Wednesday, Canada’s snowboarders shined in Kreischberg, Austria. As it has in the past, success in the sport starts with long-time veteran Jasey-Jay Anderson (Val-Morin, Que.), who notched his second straight gold medal on the World Cup circuit in parallel giant slalom. Anderson is a legend, a four-time world champion and three-time Olympian still in search of his first Olympic medal. His ladies teammate Alexa Loo, who surpasses Anderson in the veteran category, carved a career-high silver medal in parallel giant slalom. It is the second of three top-5 results Loo (Richmond, B.C.) needs to crack the Olympic team.

On Tuesday, Canadian ski cross racers nabbed two bronze medals at a World Cup in St. Johann/Oberndorf, Austria. Dave Duncan (London, Ont.) and Julia Murray (Whistler) Picking up gold on the women’s side was France’s Ophelie David, who will be the one to beat at the Olympic Winter Games.

Modelled on cycling’s Tour de France, the Tour de Ski is a 10-day, three-country, five-venue cross-country skiing event. It wraps up Sunday in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Canadian racers have made waves this week. On Thursday, rising star Alex Harvey (St.-Ferreol, Que.) blasted to 9th place in a 10 km race. The day before, Russian-turned-Canadian Ivan Babikov (Canmore, Alta.) was fastest in the world and finished first in a 35 km skate-ski race. Babikov said it was one of the best races of his career.

Heading into the weekend, here are where Canadian men sit in the Tour de Ski: Babikov is 12th; Devon Kershaw is 16th; Alex Harvey is 19th; and George Grey is 32nd. Olympic medallist Sara Renner is the lone Canadian woman, and sits in 21st spot.

In the mountains, Whistler’s Michael Janyk proved he can surge back into contention in any race as he jumped from 16th to 6th place in World Cup slalom in Zagreb, Croatia. His second run was fastest of all skiers. Teammates Patrick Biggs (Orleans, Ont.) was 17th, Julien Cousineau (Lachute, Que.) 18th and Brad Spence (Calgary) 22nd.

Over the weekend and into next week, the action continues to heat up. That includes the figure skating national championships that start Wednesday. Follow weekend events at our Facebook (Canadian Olympic Team) and Twitter (CDNOlympicTeam) pages and watch for a “Sport Shorts” here on early next week.