Hope on the slopes

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:10 AM ET

As Canada's alpine ski team beats the drums for the coming season, Kelly VanderBeek can feel her heart beat faster.

It's a sure sign she is poised for a banner year on the World Cup circuit.

Fittingly, Canada's national ski body used the Toronto Stock Exchange yesterday to announce a corporate partnership with Northwest Mutual Funds, an appropriate location when one considers VanderBeek's rising stock.

The effervescent and engaging young lady came within an eyelash of a podium finish at the Turin Winter Olympics.

"I've trained so hard this past summer and I just have this overwhelming feeling of excitement,'' VanderBeek said. "The nerves, fear and courage are all inside of us. It's what we love and it's why skiing is so addictive. I'm just really looking forward to the season."

The World Cup circuit made an aborted start with the recent cancellation of an event in Austria.

Weather shouldn't pose any problems in the coming weeks as Lake Louise welcomes the top male and female ski practitioners for the lone Canadian stop, Nov. 24-25 and Dec. 1-2, respectively.

VanderBeek, 23, is a four-year veteran, a seasoned skier who has progressed each year.

"It's funny, because I am a veteran but I still feel like a rookie,'' she said. "I'm learning something new every day and I'm trying to get better and better."

For Stefan Guay, this year marks his first full-time foray into World Cup skiing after gaining valuable experience last season by competing in three events.

"I'm not so much nervous as I am excited," Guay said. "I feel more confident and I'm stronger. I'm just excited to see how I can compete against the bigger guys."

With young guns such Stefan Guay and the emergence of VanderBeek, it's no wonder why officials brim with confidence.

Down the road, everyone associated with the sport is eyeing the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, but funding announcements such as yesterday's go a long way to ensuring success and continued growth.

The corporate cache now involves the likes of Telus, Bombardier and G.M. Northwest Mutual Funds will serve as the title sponsor for the Canadian-based Nor-Am Cup Series, an all-important first step into the World Cup circuit.

"Without those funds we don't have that stepping stone," Alpine Canada CEO Ken Read said.

"Without the support, we'd have a hole in the system."


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