SLAM!Sports
December 3, 2005
Foot loose
Canuck Rubens high-steppin' after sensational showing
By ERIC FRANCIS, CALGARY SUN

LAKE LOUISE -- Less than two years after walking away from the sport, Calgary's Shona Rubens returned here looking simply to gain World Cup experience.

She may leave with a ticket to Turin.

Taking advantage of improved afternoon conditions and home-course experience, the 19-year-old took a giant jump towards Olympic qualification yesterday with a shocking 15th-place finish in just her second World Cup downhill outing.

Wearing bib No. 58 in a field of 64, Rubens stunned the modest finish-area crowd with a result that prompted a spirited dance full of fist-pumps for her friends and family.

"Before my run I was talking to my brother (Chris) and his friend and they were saying, 'No matter how you do, you have to do a good dance in the finish,' " chuckled Rubens, whose family moved from Calgary to Canmore three months ago.

"When I came down I had a reason to dance and celebrate. I was blown away. I knew I had a pretty good run -- I just didn't think it was quite top-15. That was definitely above expectations but I'll take it."

With the effort comes valuable World Cup points, half her Olympic qualifying requirements, billing as the day's top Canadian and a boost in confidence for the quiet teen.

"The Olympics has sort of been in the back of my mind -- my coaches believed I could qualify," said Rubens, whose main focus is the world junior championships in Quebec.

"Coming into the year I didn't really know how I stood with the top girls. But after today, hopefully I'll be able to get another (top-30 to qualify).

"That'd be a pretty extensive dance I think."

With any luck the long-time Ranchlands resident could be doing the Turin Two-Step this afternoon when the season's second World Cup downhill kicks off (12:30 p.m.).

"I know the people at home are saying, 'Who cares, you didn't win.' But unless you live this every day, you don't understand how much of an accomplishment it is for a 19-year-old to come out here and be top 15 in the world," said Canadian team veteran Allison Forsyth of her friend and teammate.

"How many athletes finish 15th in their first or second World Cup?" asked coach Max Gartner. "Not many."

Quite possibly the only Sydney, Australia-born competitor ever to post a top-20 finish in World Cup ski lore, Rubens moved to Calgary at age three-and-a-half when the oil-patch lured her father.

Strapped to skis immediately, the longtime Lake Louise Ski Club member never fathomed she'd be racing among the world's elite on her home hill. It seemed especially far-fetched two years ago when she quit the national team to finish school and pursue other interests.

"I decided I couldn't do skiing and school and I wasn't sure if I was ever going to come back again because my heart wasn't in it at that time," said the 5-ft., 7-in. Rubens.

"So I finished high school (at Calgary's National Sports School) and travelled Europe for six weeks with friends. After that I decided that without school skiing became easier and more fun. My heart's back in it again."

Last year she joined the Alberta team and re-qualified for the national team thanks in part to a second- and third-place finish here on the Nor-Am feeder circuit.

"I definitely felt a lot more confident just because it is at home and I know the track," said Rubens, who struggled in training runs.

"Today I really attacked and got over my skis. I think I can be competitive, which is pretty exciting for me -- it gives me that extra boost of confidence."

And a chance to complete a comeback even she never dreamed possible.


CANOE.CA SLAM! Sports