Canadians hold their own in showcase

Duo finishes second, third in training

By ROB LONGLEY, EDMONTON SUN

WHISTLER - They are not out of the woods - or more precisely the fog on the mountain - but the showcase men’s downhill event passed a major hurdle here on Thursday.

It took an abbreviated course and some schedule changes to accommodate, but the entire field got in the one required training run meaning Saturday’s race is clear to be run.

Now only if the mountain would clear as well.

Thick fog forced officials to reschedule women’s training and to alter the men’s course so it was ended far above the traditional finish line.

Canadian Robbie Dixon repeated his runner-up showing in Wednesday’s shorter course when he was timed in 1:34.55. As he was the previous day, Swiss star Didier Cuche had the fastest time but was disqualified for missing a gate.

Another Canadian, Erik Guay finished third on Thursday while the country’s top medal contender, Manuel Osborne-Paradis slipped to 21st.

Not to worry, however. Osborne-Paradis eased up towards the end of his run because of reduced visibility due to fog.

The weather promises to be an issue going forward, especially with rain and mild temperatures in the forecast for the next few days. But with the alpine events loaded on the front end of the schedule, there is wiggle room.

“We have two weeks to run it, so it’s going to get run,” Osborne-Paradis said. “It’s not like a World Cup where you’ve just go on the weekend.”

Still, with likely just the single training run, the perception is it works in the Canadians’ favour.

“We’ve skied in everything - from sun, to rain, to snow,” Dixon said. “We’ve seen (the Dave Murray downhill course) in everything. As a group, we’re ready for whatever Whistler has to offer on race day.”

Meanwhile, the cancellation of training delayed American Lindsey Vonn’s return to the slopes. Vonn, who is expected to contend for five medals here, is hampered by a deep bruise to a muscle in her shin area.

“It was pretty grim for a while, she was quite emotional,” said Thomas Vonn, Lindsey’s coach and husband. “It was debilitating before, but now it’s getting to the point where she can just grit her teeth and bear it.

“This might not be a popular opinion, but we can use all the delays we can get.”

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