Canucks bomb at Whistler

By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

WHISTLER, B.C. — Manuel Osborne-Paradis wanted no part of playing it safe, or to celebrate the mere fact that he was competing in his first Olympic Games.

The downhill skier wanted what Alexandre Bilodeau seized the night before down at Cypress Mountain, not a participation ribbon and a pat on the back.

So go ahead and rip him for finishing an unsatisfactory 17th in one of the showcase events in the Winter Games, one in which he was a mild favourite.

But at least Osborne-Paradis went for gold, even if he went broke as a result.

“It’s the Olympics, nobody cares who is fourth,” Osborne-Paradis said after Canadian skiers watched their home-hill advantage go from familiarity to failure on the Dave Murray downhill course.

“This is the first race I’ve ever gone to where top 10 wasn’t going to cut it. I was going for first and when you are racing for top spot, there are a lot of crappy spots you can get after that.”

Swiss veteran Didier Defago won gold in a time of 1:54.31, just .07 faster than silver medallist Aksel Svindal of Norway and .09 quicker than bronzed Bode Miller, the bad boy of American skiing.

Racing over an icy, bumpy course that had been hammered by the mild weather here the past week, the Canadians were a non-factor, destroying the much-hyped and somewhat controversial home-course edge.

Robbie Dixon, who was second in a training run and learned the sport as a member of the Whistler Mountain Ski Club, was even worse than Osborne-Paradis.

Losing control at a point in the course named Double Trouble, Dixon was skiing like the slope might be foreign territory to him. After spinning off line and crashing into a safety fence, he didn’t even complete the run.

Only Erik Guay, who was a longshot for the podium, had a decent Canadian result, finishing fifth.

“You dream about it and you want to see yourself on the top of the podium,” Dixon said when asked if perhaps the Canadians wanted it a little too much. “I knew I would either be standing on the podium or pretty far away from it.”

All events are not considered equal, of course, so in some competitions, a top-10 placing is as much as a Canadian can hope for. Sam Edney’s seventh in men’s luge here the night before is one such example.

But in downhill, expectations are considerably higher as is the pressure, especially given a program with a history of success on the World Cup circuit hasn’t won an Olympic medal in the event since 1994.

Whether through recklessness or poor execution, the Canadians didn’t ski anywhere near the capabilities on Monday, failing to take advantage of the factors in their favour.

Osborne-Paradis ran into trouble at a point on the course known as Coach’s Corner when he hit an unexpected bump, briefly losing his balance and never really recovering.

Dixon, meanwhile, was a disaster from the start as he got caught on a gate early, recovered briefly, then crashed and burned.

Guay had a stronger than expected showing, missing a medal by just .24 of a second and in finishing fifth, recorded the best Olympic downhill performance by a Canadian since 1998.

“You hope and pray for Olympic miracles,” Guay said. “I would have loved to be on the podium.”

The race was there for the taking, too, as Defago was considered a much longer shot than Osborne-Paradis, for example. But when Swiss favourite Didier Cuche struggled in the lower portions on the way to a sixth-place finish, it was anyone’s race.

Just not the Canadians’.

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

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