Home track causes grief

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:20 AM ET

LAKE LOUISE -- On the tail end of a World Cup weekend Canmore's Allison Forsyth rated a five-out-of-10 for her squad, Kelly VanderBeek figured she has the answer to Canada's alpine skiing struggles.

"We've just got to be a little more cocky and go in there believing we own that course," said the

22-year-old Kitchener, Ont., product following a 17th-place finish in yesterday's World Cup super-G season opener.

"The training in Panorama, we were just kicking butt. We were sweeping (the Italians, Swiss, Germans and British) all the time. We are good. We need to trust ourselves."

Chalking up the women's season-opening performance to the pressure associated with skiing in front of family, friends and the growing number of sponsors backing Ken Read's program, Forsyth agreed the squad's mindset is likely what prevented the Canadian women from cracking the top 10 all weekend.

"I know we are capable of much more -- in training, we do kick the booty off of these girls," said the 27-year-old giant slalom specialist, 42nd yesterday in a discipline in which she only dabbles.

"I think we're missing that 'race skier' and maybe confidence as a nation. To be honest, I think we'll do better once we leave here. Maybe some people feel the pressure."

Problem being, in a sport that demands speeds upwards of 120 km/h to land on the podium, there's always pressure.

Failing to overcome it is not an acceptable excuse for veterans who have been on the podium as Emily Brydon, Forsyth and Simard have been in the past.

Winning breeds confidence, Simard said.

"You can be cocky when you have the results -- it goes together for me," said Simard, 25, who broke through with a GS silver in Italy last year. "In the last few years,

I became a little cockier myself because

I realize I have the potential. I've had some good results in the past. It's a good attitude to have.

"As a team, we have great potential and we can do it. Now it's time to do it. It's time to be more consistent."

On a weekend when Brydon, the undisputed team leader, was expected to follow up on strong training runs by threatening the podium, the most impressive effort of the weekend was a shocking 15th-place finish from 19-year-old Calgarian Shona Rubens in her first World Cup downhill race.

Brydon was happy for her teammate.

"If I was 15th, I wouldn't be happy -- but for her, it's a win," said Brydon, 35th yesterday and no better than 38th in Friday and Saturday's season-opening downhills.

"I have to learn from Shona. The only thing she focused on was skiing. Me,

I focused on everything but skiing -- winning, trying too hard, making sure I have the perfect line ... It's frustrating but it happens to everyone. It's not like I'm the only one who has ever choked. It wasn't my weekend but it can still be my season."

Coming off a season in which Alpine Canada racked up more World Cup points than ever before, few can argue the breadth and depth of the program is improving. However, as most Canadians prepare to watch the sport for the first time in four years, it's hard for them to believe progress is being made when few crack the top 10.

Simard said the team is disappointed, too.

"It's the first weekend and we want to peak in February," she said of the Turin Games. "There are four of us who can podium in downhill and super-G, so we have huge expectations. It'll come."

Exactly when is what Canadians want to know.


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