Calgary’s Hudec finishes 11th

DANIEL AUSTIN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:33 PM ET

LAKE LOUISE, Alta. -- Calgary's Jan Hudec was only one second away from starting his run at the men's downhill in Lake Louise on Saturday when he was stopped at the gate and told to wait for foggy conditions to clear. The delay might have been too big a distraction for some racers, but after all Hudec's been through over the past couple racing seasons, there was no way he was going to be phased by a brief fog delay.

About ten minutes later Hudec took off and surprised many in attendance by finishing in 11th place overall with a time of 1:49.31 -- the fastest time among Canadian racers in the race. Hudec, who's had six knee surgeries and recurring back problems in recent years, said he had even surprised himself.

"I didn't know if I could ski this morning. My body's been sore and I've been skiing two days on, one day off coming up to the event on soft snow, and now we're skiing on pure ice and I did five days straight," Hudec said. "It was an inspired run, and short of a miracle, I don't know what else it was."

After posting the fastest three times in Friday's final training run, Austrians again dominated the podium on Saturday. Michael Walchhofer won the race with a time of 1:47.78, nearly half a second faster than Austrian Mario Scheiber and Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, who tied for second place with times of 1:48.33.

Walchhofer, who will retire at the end of this World Cup season, said he hoped to win more events this year but the win brought his career full circle in some ways.

"It couldn't be better, I got my first downhill victory in my career here in 2003," the 35-year-old said. "It's not just perfect for me, it takes a lot of pressure off the whole Austrian team. We've been waiting two years for a downhill victory. Not just me, all the Austrian ski fans. Downhill sport is very popular at home, so it's nice for me to win here."

The 35-year old Walchhofer was one of the oldest racers at the Lake Louise event, but Svindal said the skiing world always needed to be wary of counting the Australian team out.

"It shows that no one is faster than him in high speed gliding turns, and there's a lot of them in Lake Louise," Svindal said. "They (the Austrians) had bad luck last year, but you can never count them as gone. It's impressive, but it's not surprising."

Canada placed three skiers in the top 25 at the event. In addition to Hudec, Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Invermere, B.C., finished 13th with a time of 1:49.33 and Eric Guay of Mont Tremblant, Que., came in 24th with a time of 1:50.00.

Guay said he had felt ready going into the race, but he had some difficulties on turns through the middle section of the course and wasn't able to recover.

"It's always a little bit fast and a little bit rattle-ier on race day, and I should have expect that I guess and skied in accordance," Guay said. "I just felt like the course bounced me around instead of me really attacking it and pushing it."


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