T.O. skiers need to impress at B.C. champ.

MARK KEAST -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

It doesn't get any bigger for Toronto's Nick Zoricic.

This week's Canadian ski championship, in Whistler, B.C., is the 23-year-old's best opportunity to re-open some eyes at the national ski team level. Zoricic is looking to re-gain a spot for himself in the Canadian World Cup team pecking order after injuries over the past year threw everything off the rails.

Just over a year ago, Zoricic was part of the national team's development squad, one step below the World Cup team. Concussions and a knee injury changed all that, to the point where he's nearly off the radar screen completely.

Zoricic tweaked the knee at a Nor-Am Cup event this past week in Panorama, B.C., and was trying to get the swelling down when The Sun called.

At the end of the ski season, the national team looks at everyone's world rankings, and that determines who goes where. Zoricic said he and Scott Barrett, another Torontonian trying to make the World Cup team, have been out there this year as skiing's version of the freelancer, competing wherever they can.

Actually, wherever they can afford it. Zoricic says facetiously skiing isn't soccer, when it comes to costs.

Zoricic and Barrett spent two months in Europe, having left Canada just after Christmas to compete in Europa Cup events.

When you aren't a member of the national or development squads, you're on the hook for your own costs, and anyone who spends two months skiing in Europe can tell you how much that amounts to. Hotels. Restaurants. Lift tickets. Alpine Ontario helped out somewhat, as well as his family, and a few other sources. But it's been difficult.

Still, Zoricic isn't giving up.

"Nick's been struggling a bit, he needs to rebound," said Max Gartner, Alpine Canada's chief athletic officer. "He's very close."

On March 6, Zoricic won the men's slalom at Camp Fortune, QC., in a Pontiac GMC Cup event, which showcases some of the country's top up-and-coming talent.

"If I believed I couldn't do it it would be a lot easier just to sit back," Zoricic said. "I've had good results. But I've had a lot of bad luck. I would regret it forever (if I quit)."

Same with another Toronto skier on the bubble, Meg Ryley. The 19-year-old is part of the Canadian alpine ski team invitee list, meaning she's somewhere between the development squad and the provincial team.

For Ryley, 19, frustration is building a little. This year she's also fought through concussions, as well as appendicitis.

"I'm right there. I've beaten many of those girls (on the development squad)," she said. She sees the development squad as focusing on girls younger than her, and that compounds the frustration.

Still, like with Zoricic, and Barrett, this week will go a long way in changing their respective situations.

"They better do really well," said Kristin Ellis, a spokesperson from Alpine Ontario. "There's a lot of pressure on all three of them."

Said Ryley: "I've had some negative experiences with the (national) program, but it's still ahead of the provincial team in terms of things like coaches to athlete ratios."

The Canadian championships will go a long in determining the development squad for next year, and that remains Ryley's immediate goal.

"All three have exceptional attitudes and work ethic," Gartner said. "They need more concrete results. They need to compete more against our national athletes."

Then, perhaps the Vancouver 2010 Olympics will feature a nice dose of Toronto-born alpine skiers.


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