Guay makes no excuses after 17th-place finish

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:17 PM ET

LAKE LOUISE -- Athletes never admit they choked.

There's always an explanation, a justification or an excuse for a sub-par performance.

Then there's Erik Guay.

Far from being a household name anywhere outside his hometown of Mont-Tremblant, Que., Canada's top downhiller said for the first time in his career he entered yesterday's race with a World Cup podium in his sights.

So, when he rambled down a shortened Olympic downhill course in 17th-place place, the 24-year-old explained his finish one simple way.

"I might have choked a little bit today," said Guay, Canada's top Olympic downhill hope.

"All the training runs went really well and I felt comfortable, so to do this on race day is pretty disappointing."

Pressed further on his unusually harsh assessment, the world's 14th-ranked downhiller didn't back down.

"It's a reality -- if you look at the training runs I had with such good results (second Thursday and eighth Wednesday before slowing up Friday to gain the third starting bib) what else can you say? I was in the top 10 fairly easily in training and on race day I finish 17th -- in my books that qualifies as a choke and I'm not at all satisfied with that. I didn't feel nervous at all at the start but maybe on course I did and held back a little bit."

With seven top-10 World Cup finishes to his credit, including the most shocking of silvers here two years ago, Guay's progression has taken him to the point where he feels he can finally roll with the big boys in a discipline generally dominated by veterans.

While 21-year-old Calgarian John Kucera floated around the finish area thrilled with a 25th-place finish that satisfied his top-30 goal, Guay is further along in his development, shooting for a top-10 every time out.

"That's probably the first time I've ever (focused on a podium)," said Guay, who had two sixth-place finishes at the 2003 Worlds before tearing his ACL.

"I knew my summer training was going well and I'm stronger than ever so why not? If I'm able to ski that way in training, why not on race day? If you look at the training runs, guys like (race winner) Fritz Strobl were pretty far out but on race day they know how to put down and hopefully that's what I'll learn."

It's all part of the progression Alpine Canada president Ken Read speaks of when asked about a team he's steadily rebuilt since taking over in 2002.

Having heard little from Canadian skiers since Read's Crazy Canucks blitzed the White Circus, most Canadians would be shocked to learn the Canadian team earned a record number of World Cup points last year, placing seventh overall.

And while the bulk of those came from a handful of top-ranked skiers such as Thomas Grandi, Genevieve Simard and Allison Forsyth, the breadth of the team is expanding. So much so that Read's goal is to have a full contingent of 22 skiers qualify for Turin.

"Depth is the key that we want," said Read, whose goal includes five World Cup medals and one Olympic podium. "It's that very powerful influence we want of wanting to be the best Canadian, which is maybe more powerful than trying to win. This is a benchmark year and the culmination of the human, technical and financial resources being poured into the team to get the results."

As for Guay, he left the hill admittedly unsure what his expectations would be for today's Super G.

"My goals will change week to week depending on my training runs I guess," said Guay, who needs one top ten to clinch a Turin ticket. "At the Olympics, it's podium for me."


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