Fourth downer

SESTRIERE, Italy -- One-tenth of a second from a podium and a lifetime goal.

One-tenth of a second from being the Canadian story of these Games.

Skiing in his first Olympics, on a hill he has never seen, after three weeks off snow, with one knee frozen by doctors and a three-hour weather delay that forced them to shoot it up again, Erik Guay not only finished his run yesterday, he finished it -- temporarily -- on the podium.

Blazing down Sestriere Borgata's super-G trail in one minute 30.98 seconds, the 24-year-old product of Mont-Tremblant, Que., shocked a crowd of 10,000 by placing third with just three contenders left to ski.

Aksel Lund Svindal and Daron Rahlves failed to play the spoiler, leaving one man -- The Hermanator, who became Guay's Terminator.

"He's a pretty clutch skier and knows how to ski under pressure," Guay said after he was bumped to fourth by Austrian legend Hermann Maier, who finished second.

"I saw his split time and he was tied with me and

I knew he'd be faster on the bottom. I was hoping something would happen but it's part of the game. There's disappointment, no doubt about it. Fourth is not a good place to be -- it's like the first loser. I'd rather be fifth or sixth."

Eighth went to 21-year-old teammate Francois Bourque -- a solid showing for another one of Alpine Canada's rising stars.

First went to Kjetil Andre Aamodt and third to Ambrosi Hoffmann.

But the story of the day was Guay, who didn't know until Tuesday whether his lower leg injury would permit him to free ski for the first time since injuring it in late January.

"We took a lot of chances not skiing for three weeks and having just three days of training on loose terrain," said Guay, who withdrew from the downhill last week, as well as tomorrow's giant slalom, so he could rehab for his best event.

"It was a big risk to race (yesterday) without that much preparation but I knew I was capable of it. That's why we did it. We wouldn't have competed otherwise. If I thought I'd finish 15th, I'd have just axed the Olympics completely."

As if the odds weren't stacked up against him enough, heavy snow Friday cancelled his one chance to ski the course he had never seen before. Then yesterday a controversial decision was made to scrub the race after snow made visibility tough on the first 17 skiers, which meant Guay would have to take the painful cortisone injection once again.

"It's not a fun feeling. I wouldn't recommend it," he said with a laugh.

"The doctors and physiotherapists and coaches did such a good job. We made the right decision not to race the last three weeks and take a chance with (yesterday's) race."

Added Alpine Canada's Max Gartner: "For him to come out and finish fourth is heartbreaking but, on the other hand, it was an unbelievable effort. Unfortunately it's all about medals."

Like Guay needed to be reminded.