Canada's ski future bright under Read

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

Ken Read was weaving his way through the chaos of Pearson International Airport the other day when he suddenly was recognized by an Air Canada clerk. "It's amazing how well the ski team is doing this year," the airline employee told Read.

Just as amazing is the fact that the public has started to care again, let alone notice how the team is faring.

When Read was hired as president of Alpine Canada in 2002, it was hoped that the presence of the former Crazy Canuck would help bring back both fans and investors alike.

Now, almost three years later, the attention has shifted off Read and on to the national ski program, which has produced six podium appearances on the World Cup circuit -- three more than in each of the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons.

Thomas Grandi will attempt to up that total to seven today in the World Cup final giant slalom race in Switzerland. Grandi, who sits second in the giant-slalom rankings, won back-to-back World Cup giant slaloms in December, becoming the first Canadian male skier to capture a World Cup technical event.

"I know when I started this job, I inherited a program that was on the rocks," Read said. "At the outset, (my image) helped with media and sponsors.

"But I also knew it had to change quickly. It couldn't all be put on my shoulders, nor should it. I'm just part of a team. I'm happy when our team and the athletes are the focus."

Read, whose wild and wacky runs in downhill events along with the likes Steve Podborski, Dave Irwin, Dave Murray and Todd Brooker gained them international prestige, chuckles at how times have changed.

"There was a belief that, as the Crazy Canucks, we were good in the downhill because we always were on the edge," Read said. "But now we believe we are as good as anyone technically (aka slalom and giant slalom)."

Alpine Canada's pre-season projections for World Cup podium appearances (5) and world junior championship medals (3) each were surpassed. The only disappointment came at the World Championships, where hopes for two medals were dashed when the Canadians were blanked.

Read is encouraged with the influx of young talent that was on display at a pair of NorAm events in Collingwood this week.

Front and centre was Brigitte Acton, the Sault Ste. Marie native who won the NorAm giant slalom event at Georgian Peaks yesterday.

Not far behind was Montreal's Sophie Splawinski, who finished fourth despite battling illness.

"I've been sick the past few days, so it's been a bit up and down," said Splawinski, who ended the NorAm giant slalom season in third place overall.

Read's guidance, coupled with fresh blood like Acton and Splawinski, certainly paints a bright future for Alpine Canada.


Videos

Photos