Osborne-Paradis reaching his peak on downhill slopes

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:53 PM ET

Canada's Manuel Osborne-Paradis learned a key lesson in how to deal with adversity four years ago during a national team downhill training camp in Portillo, Chile.

The 25-year-old ski racer from Invermere, B.C., and a group of Canadian skiers were gathered at the bottom of the mountain when the great Austrian racer Werner Franz crashed near the finish line, right in front of them.

"He blew out a knee, had a broken leg with the bone sticking out, and he was screaming and yelling," said Osborne-Paradis. "We were just in awe."

At that point, former coach Burkhard Schaffer came over and ordered the Canadians back to the top of the hill to resume their training, which they did, mentally forcing themselves to immediately get over the images of Franz's horrific accident, a crash that eventually resulted in the Austrian's retirement.

Osborne-Paradis recalled that particular incident in the wake of his sensational win yesterday at the World Cup downhill in Val Gardena, Italy, his second career World Cup downhill victory and second win this season, having won the Super-G in Lake Louise on Grey Cup Sunday.

During his post-race media conference, Osborne-Paradis was asked repeatedly about the hard-luck Canadian team recently losing five racers to injuries, including potential Olympic medallists John Kucera of Calgary and Kelly VanderBeek.

And while Osborne-Paradis was naturally pumped about his win, having crossed the line in two minutes, 1:27 seconds despite making a mistake partway down the course, he was less than impressed with having to relive the injury curse that has befallen so many of his teammates. Osborne-Paradis said the gloom and doom has been blown out of proportion and that the Canadian team will still be strong at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"The world's not going to end," he said. "We still have a lot of ski racers who are skiing really fast and really well."

Yesterday's downhill in Gardena certainly backed that argument. Robbie Dixon of Whistler took sixth place, while Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was 11th.

Osborne-Paradis proved yet again he is a rising star in both the downhill and the Super-G. He's already won twice this season, earned three podium placements last winter on the World Cup circuit, and is a threat to reach the top three in every race. His consistency and fitness level have earned him the nickname 'Manimal' from his fellow racers.

Osborne-Paradis managed to keep his composure yesterday despite nearly slipping midway down the course. At that point, he figured he had lost almost a second and had nothing to lose, so he attacked the final half of the course, a gamble that paid off.

Turns out, he could do no wrong yesterday.

After winning the downhill, the North Vancouver-born racer took part in the traditional post-race game of hockey, which always includes the Canadian skiers as well as some Europeans and Americans.

And talk about the perfect finish. Osborne-Paradis reported with great pride he scored the winning goal.

"Pretty much like how (Jarome) Iginla is going to score the gold-medal goal at the Olympics," he said with a laugh.

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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