Relief for hard-luck Canucks

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:09 AM ET

Canada's Manuel Osborne-Paradis learned a key lesson in how to deal with adversity four years ago during a national team downhill training camp in Portillo, Chile.

The 25-year-old from the Whistler, B.C., said he and a group of Canadian skiers were gathered at the bottom of the mountain when the great Austrian racer Werner Franz crashed near the finish line, right in front of them.

"He blew out a knee, had a broken leg, with the bone sticking out, and he was screaming and yelling," Osborne-Paradis said.

"We were just in awe."

At that point, former national team coach Burkhard Schaffer came over and ordered the young Canadians back to the top of the hill to resume their training, which they did, mentally forcing themselves to immediately get over Franz's horrific accident, a crash that eventually resulted in the Austrian's retirement.

Osborne-Paradis recalled that particular incident in the wake of his sensational victory yesterday at the World Cup downhill in Val Gardena, Italy, his second career World Cup downhill victory and second World Cup win this season, having won the Super-G on Nov. 29 in Lake Louise.

During his post-race news conference, Osborne-Paradis was repeatedly asked about the hard-luck Canadian team recently losing five racers to injury, including potential Olympic medallists John Kucera and Kelly VanderBeek.

And while Osborne-Paradis naturally was pumped about his win, having crossed the line in two minutes, 1:27 seconds, despite making a miscue partway down the course, he was less than impressed with having to relive the injury curse that has befallen so many of his teammates.

Francois Bourque of New Richmond, Que., was added to the list when he ripped up his knee Friday in a Super-G race at Val Gardena.

Osborne-Paradis said the gloom and doom has been blown out of proportion and that the Canadian team will still be strong at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"The world's not going to end," said Osborne-Paradis, who credited the injured Canadian skiers with helping the healthy skiers stay focussed by not "freaking out" over their injuries. "We still have a lot of ski racers who are skiing really fast and really well."

Yesterday's downhill in Val Gardena certainly backed that argument.

Robbie Dixon, 24, also of Whistler, took sixth place in the event while Erik Guay, 28, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was 11th.

Austria's Mario Scheiber was second in 2:01.40, while Swiss skier Ambrosi Hoffmann and Johan Clarey of France tied for third in 2:01.52.

RISING STAR

Osborne-Paradis, who earned three podium finishes last season, proved yet again that he is a rising star in the both the downhill and Super-G. His consistency and fitness level have earned him the nickname "Manamal" by his fellow racers.

Osborne-Paradis managed to keep his composure yesterday despite nearly slipping midway down the course. At that point, he guessed he had lost almost a second and had nothing to lose, so he attacked the final half of the course, a gamble that paid off.

"I almost fell a couple of times," he said. "But I was able to pick up speed and make up time.

"When I went through the finish line, I was really shocked that I was first," Osborne-Paradis added. "I didn't think the run would hold. It didn't feel that great."

Osborne-Paradis could do no wrong yesterday.

After winning the downhill, the North Vancouver-born racer took part in the traditional post-race game of hockey, which always includes the Canadian skiers as well as some Europeans and Americans. And talk about the perfect way to finish a great day: Osborne-Paradis reported with great pride that he scored the winning goal.

"Pretty much like how (Jarome) Iginla is going to score the gold-medal goal at the Olympics," he said, with a laugh.

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos