There's no place like home

DARREN FRIESEN -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:17 AM ET

Thomas Grandi can sympathize with the New Orleans Saints.

Just like the NFL team, which is homeless this season after Hurricane Katrina damaged its Superdome home, Grandi also doesn't get the chance to compete in front of his hometown fans.

As the Canadian alpine team's most celebrated athlete, the Canmore resident could only watch and listen as his teammates revelled in the opportunity to ski in front of their faithful at the Winterstart World Cup in Lake Louise.

"Yeah, it's disappointing," said Grandi yesterday, who was on hand as the 2005-06 national men's and women's teams were introduced at Canada Olympic Park.

"I think the team and everyone put together a great effort to try and get a (giant slalom) for me and my team at Lake Louise but it didn't appear to be worthwhile in the end."

Canadian race officials put in their request last year to add a giant slalom technical race to the list of speed events already slated for the weekend of Nov. 26-27.

But without a challenging layout in place, organizers decided it best the other venues on the World Cup circuit would be more appropriate.

"It's unfortunate that we don't have a great hill to host a technical event," said Grandi, a back-to-back gold medallist in the giant slalom last year. "Turns out most of the hills here get flat at the bottom, so it poses a real challenge for us. FIS is real strict with the characteristics of a race hill, so that just the way it is."

While Grandi won't get the chance to race at home this year, Calgary's Jan Hudec and Erik Guay of Mont Tremblant, Que., were in attendance to talk about the season to come.

"I know I'm feeling good this year coming back and I know Erik's skiing really fast, so I think we're ready to step it up," said Hudec.

"It's always nice to start the year at home and have the support.

"It's a perfect place for us to start and it's a perfect place to show the world what we got."

On the women's side, Emily Brydon of Fernie and Allison Forsyth of Nanaimo, B.C., have had to take a bit more of the leadership role since veteran Melanie Turgeon announced her retirement a few weeks back.

"The team dynamic has definitely changed," said Brydon, who will be on her skis the weekend of Dec. 2-4 at Lake Louise.

"There's a void that we've both had to try and fill and hopefully we can."


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