Whistler native Canada's best medal hope

By ERIC FRANCIS, SUN MEDIA

Manuel Osborne-Paradis has heard enough about the injuries dominating the World Cup skiing headlines.

The 25-year-old Whistler native insists he isn't bothered by the rash of season-ending injuries decimating his sport and, quite frankly, he doesn't think people should be talking so much about them.

"I've been reading all the stuff on the Internet and it's insane," said Osborne-Paradis from his hotel room in Austria.

"There's more articles on the injuries than people doing well. There are three guys on the podium and not three guys getting injured every time. It's not the first year injuries have happened. People are focusing too much on the negative."

With two wins in his pocket this season, the world's fourth-ranked downhiller has clearly supplanted injured teammate John Kucera as Canada's best medal hope in his hometown next month.

And he's done so without the help of psychologists who've worked overtime on the men's and women's circuit to help most athletes cope with the emotion involved with seeing comrades carted off hills with unprecedented regularity.

"It's something FIS needs to look at but I think it's been blown out of proportion," he said of the injuries.

"It's supposed to bug you, I think. You're not supposed to see someone get hurt and feel nothing. But I think guys on our team are good at putting that out of their mind. If you're thinking about things like that before your run it's time to call up somebody I guess. But if you've made it this far and course conditions and injuries affect you ... I don't think you've actually made it this far."

Make no mistake, the personable speedster has great compassion for Kucera, Francois Bourque and J.P. Roy, who all had their season's end early. But he says the level of professionalism each one of them exhibited after having their Olympic hopes shattered has made their loss easier to swallow. And through it all, he's managed to have his best year to date.

"Wins are wins because of baby steps made over the years," he said of his success this year.

"I'm skiing better in races I've had problems with in the past but we're only half done."

With conventional wisdom suggesting most skiers peak nearing the end of the season, Osborne-Paradis is brimming with confidence heading down the Olympic stretch run.

"Of the five races left, four of the courses I love and the other is Kitzbuhel -- terrifying, but I feel I'm in good position to ski it hard."

And that's the way he'll attack things despite fears that hold some racers back so close to the Olympics.

"You have to keep that fiery edge especially in downhill," said Osborne-Paradis, also ranked fourth in Super G.

"You have to push the envelope all the time so you can get fairly safe in a very dangerous environment. You want to do well here and feel invincible for the Olympics."

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