Skiing Cowboys back in saddle

By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

WHISTLER, B.C. — Max Gartner is ready to remove the shackles.

So confident is Alpine Canada’s head coach that the men’s downhill finally will be run on Monday, he’s getting his Canadian Cowboys back in the saddle.

“We definitely think it will happen tomorrow and they all get into race mode the day before,” Gartner said while on a stroll of Whistler Village where the temperatures were still warm but the air less humid.

“The pre-race routine is kicking in.”

It certainly is for top medal hopeful Manuel Osborne-Paradis, who like all the competitors hasn’t skied the course since Thursday and is anxious to fly down the mountain he grew up skiing on.

“It was so nice to have a night off (Saturday),” Osborne-Paradis wrote on his twitter account. “The mood was ramping up. Can’t wait for Monday.”

Should the race finally go, it will be a welcome development for all of the alpine athletes. The warm weather and rain has upended the schedule that was supposed to begin with this event Saturday.

Well-versed in Whistler weather, the Canadian men have been chilling out and taking a positive from the 48-hour delay.

“Anyone who knows Whistler, or has raced here, expects this,” men’s coach Paul Kristofic said Sunday. “The fact that it’s not on the first day and the first potential gold-medal event for Canada may have taken a bit of the edge off in terms of pressure.

“I would say our guys are confident and calm.”

With temperatures finally expected to plunge below freezing on Sunday night, Gartner is expecting not just a race, but a fast one.

“It has gotten warm at the top so when it freezes, it will be a different course and it it will be quite fast,” Gartner said. “You will see that (Monday) in the running time. If the snow really changes, (the race) could go three or four seconds faster.”

Through the delays, the men haven’t been idle. Gartner said they spent part of Saturday training on the upper part of the Whistler course to stay sharp. Sunday was spent doing dryland training.

Given that his skiers have spent so much time on the slopes here in all kinds of conditions, Gartner sees another edge for the Cowboys, which also includes outside contenders Robbie Dixon and Erik Guay.

“We can handle bad weather better than everybody,” Gartner said. “And that’s a bit of an advantage.”

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

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