Canadian alpine skier Erik Guay craves spot on Sochi Olympic podium

Canadian downhill skier Erik Guay in action during a training session at the Rosa Khutor Alpine...

Canadian downhill skier Erik Guay in action during a training session at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on Feb. 7, 2014, (Didier Debusschere/QMI Agency)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 4:05 PM ET

RASNAYA POLYANA, RUSSIA - By Erik Guay's estimation, there are 30 skiers who can hit the prized podium high up in the Caucasus Mountains following Sunday's men's downhill.

When the winning margin for one of the signature events of any Winter Games is measured in 100ths of seconds and centimetres covered at break-neck speed, good luck figuring which of that group will claim the three money spots.

No need to remind Guay, who is one of the most decorated Canadian men's downhillers ever but still seeking a first Olympic medal in this his third Games. The Montreal native had a sniff in each of the past two Olympics and is certainly in the top end of the bunch figuring to contend in Sunday's race at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center.

But at age 32, there's a good chance this will be his last shot at Olympic glory, the ultimate validation for what has been a massively successful career on the slopes of the World Cup circuit. In fact, this past December, Guay became the most decorated Canadian alpine skier when he captured his 21st career podium, surpassing the record held by the great Crazy Canuck, Steve Podborski.

If there is an urgency to succeed when the attention on his sport is at its peak, then, the 2011 world downhill champion is attempting to channel it into speed.

"I like to have a certain kind of pressure on me," Guay said earlier this week. "I know there are about 30 athletes that can claim a medal but this is a real target for me.

"I want this medal. This is what I am looking for and I won't be satisfied if I don't walk away from here with one."

The odds would suggest that Guay should be right in the mix, though as he has learned through heartache, nothing is guaranteed in the Olympic downhill where competitors race with abandon on the most important day of their four-year competitive cycle.

Several European-based sports books have Guay listed as the third wagering choice behind current World Cup leader Aksul Lund Svindal of Norway and renegade American, Bode Miller.

Despite a proud legacy in the sport, Canadian men have never won gold in the men's downhill but have two bronze medals -- Ed Podivinsky at Lillehammer in 1994 and this year's chef de mission, Podborski, at Lake Placid in 1980.

Guay has certainly flirted with joining that twosome, however. In Vancouver, he was fifth in both the downhill and Super-G and four years earlier in Turin, he was again fifth in the Super-G. Easily the most agonizing of those was the Super-G in Whistler when he was just .003 seconds from bronze and .006 from silver.

Adding to his prospects and confidence this time is the fact that for most of the current World Cup season, Guay has been in solid form. In a nine-day span in December, Guay had a first- and third-place finish in a pair of downhills, certainly suggesting he is in Olympic form.

Less than a month ago, Guay faced what could have been a significant blow to his chances after suffering a knee injury from a fall during a World Cup downhill at Wengen, Switzerland on January 18th. But once he got back on skis, Guay said there was no lingering damage.

"Structurally there was nothing wrong, mostly a bit of pain and a bit of worry," said Guay, who will also compete in the Super-G here.

"There is no danger and now my confidence is coming back," Guay said. "The injury is in the past now. It's not in my mind."

While not as accomplished as the famed Crazy Canucks, the Canadian team here is certainly hungry to end the long gap between Olympic success stories. Guay will lead the way, but a motivated group of teammates also will make their charge.

"I think we're past the point of participation," Jan Hudec said. "Participation's nice, but we're here to win."

rob.longley@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @longleysunsport


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