Canada going for gold under dark cloud

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER — Under the shadow cast by a Georgian luger’s death, a Canadian could for the first time win a gold medal at home on Saturday in the first full day of competition at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Downhill skier Manuel Osborne-Paradis of North Vancouver may be Canada’s best hope to stand on the highest step of the podium. Didier Cuche of Switzerland, however, is the overall favourite.

Racing is scheduled to begin at 11:45 a.m. PST/2:45 p.m. EST at Whistler Creekside. The race-time forecast is cloudy, with fog patches.

“I feel like I can win a gold medal, it’s just we have got to have all the ducks in order,” Osborne-Paradis said. “You need good weather, you need the right start number and then you need to have the best run.”

Osborne-Paradis, who celebrated his 26th birthday last Monday, enters with world cup victories this season in super giant slalom and downhill. Canada’s team also includes Robbie Dixon of North Vancouver, Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., Louis-Pierre Helie of Berthierville, Que., Jan Hudec of Calgary, Michael Janyk of North Vancouver, Tyler Nella of North York, Ont. and Ryan Semple of Montreal.

Chetwynd, B.C.-born Denny Morrison lives near the Richmond Olympic Oval, where he will vie for gold in men’s 5,000-metre speedskating in a noon PST/3 p.m. EST competition. Lucas Makowsky of Regina is the other Canadian.

In short-track, Montreal’s Charles Hamelin is favoured to win a medal in the 1,500 m at 7:24 p.m. PST/10:24 p.m. EST. American Apolo Anton Ohno, the Salt Lake 2002 gold medallist, will be well-supported by friends and family from Seattle. Ohno learned to speed skate in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby.

VANOC has scrambled to import snow to Cypress Mountain with 350 truckloads from Manning Park, 160 km east of Vancouver. Top-ranked Jennifer Heil of Spruce Grove, Alta., will defend her Turin 2006 moguls gold medal. Teammate Kristi Richards of Penticton, B.C., was the 2007 world champion and is expected to challenge for a medal.

The 7.5-kilometre women’s biathlon sprint at the Whistler Olympic Park at 1 p.m. PST/4 p.m. EST includes four Canadians: Rosanna Crawford, Megan Imrie and Zina Kocher of Canmore, Alta., and Megan Tandy of Prince George, B.C.

Ski jumping was the first event of the Games Friday, but is scheduled to be the first medal awarded with a 9:45 a.m. PST/12:45 p.m. EST session. None of Canada’s four jumpers qualified.

bob.mackin@sunmedia.ca

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