Parallel pair precious

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

"I'm so-o-o-o bummed that I'm not there." So said Mark Fawcett, head alpine coach of Canada's national snowboard team yesterday from his home in British Columbia.

Fawcett was speaking of Shukolovo, Russia, where Matt Morison and Toronto's Michael Lambert continued an impressive climb onto the World Cup stage. Fawcett might have taken the week off. Fortunately his team didn't.

With their coach at home preparing for the start next week of the Asian leg of the World Cup, Morison won a silver in the World Cup parallel slalom, behind only Marc Iselin of Switzerland. It's the second time in less than three weeks that the 19-year-old Morison, from the tiny village of Burketon, outside Oshawa, has won a podium spot. He won bronze in Switzerland.

Lambert, 20, of Toronto, had the fastest qualifying time of the day before finishing fifth, which is his career best. "We knew they could attain these results; just not this soon," Fawcett said. "It's going to change our training plans ... we're really happy about this. You look at an athlete from three aspects: Technically, physically and mentally -- these two guys are the full package. They're outstanding in all three categories. The one thing they don't have is experience. That's why we're kind of shocked they're so far ahead of schedule."

Morison is so young many expected he still would be on the Nor-Am circuit instead of winning at the World Cup level. "He's just been on fire," Fawcett said after yesterday's race pushed Morison into seventh place in the overall World Cup parallel slalom standings. Points leader Simon Schoch, of Switzerland, was ninth in yesterday's event.

EXPECTATIONS

Lambert has had a more difficult season. It didn't start that way. He had won the Austrian national championships last year, there was a 17th place at a World Cup, and he won the 2006 world juniors. Suffice to say, he came with expectations.

"In November during our team trime trials it was the Lambert show, he'd win 75% of them ... with Matt right on his heels," Fawcett said. But, at the end of the month, at Copper Mt. in a race it seemed he would win, Lambert blew out his shoulder. He couldn't compete again until January.

"This will really help his comeback. He didn't have a good world championships and didn't do much in a couple of (January) World Cups," Fawcett said, "but, at the last World Cup in Italy he got 21st and he told me then: 'All right. I'm not really happy with the number but I really like the way I'm riding again. I'm getting my confidence back.' It snowballed from there to this week where he qualified first. Fifth is a good result for him."

In the women's event, Caroline Calve, of Aylmer, Que., was the top Canadian, finishing 10th behind winner Heidi Neururer, of Austria.


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