Almost, Paradis

DARREN FRIESEN

, Last Updated: 8:35 AM ET

LAKE LOUISE -- Not even Ken Read would've predicted such a turnaround for a young ski racer who was no more than an also-ran here two years ago.

Then again, Alpine Canada's CEO knows anything is possible.

Read is, after all, the first non-European male skier to win a World Cup downhill race and he did it at the ripe of age 20.

"Probably not," Read said when asked if he thought Vancouver's Manuel Osborne-Paradis -- yesterday's silver medallist in the downhill -- would've had such early success.

"We've always looked at Manny as being an unpolished gem with real skills.

"We always wondered when he was going to lay it down because he's had flashes of brilliance.

"With that, there's an unpredictability. You've got to pull it all together and he did today."

Bursting out of the gates wearing the No. 4 bib, Osborne-Paradis laid down a magical run yesterday, which was almost technically flawless and fast as well.

His time of one minute, 50.77 was untouchable by 23 racers until veteran Marco Buechel of Liechtenstein edged the Canadian by 0.05 seconds to grab the gold.

Italian Peter Fill was third.

"It's a little disappointing but Marco and I are really good buddies and, if someone had to beat me, I'm glad it was him," said Osborne-Paradis, who flirted with becoming the only Canadian ski racer to win a World Cup event at Lake Louise.

Osborne-Paradis, 22, joins Erik Guay of Mont Tremblant, Que., as the only Canadians to ever podium in the World Cup at Lake Louise. Guay finished 23rd yesterday (1:52.19),

For Osborne-Paradis, the thought of making Canadian history crossed his mind but only during the long wait in the winner's tent following his run.

"I had to wait a long time, so that was pretty nerve-racking," said Osborne-Paradis.

"I've been in there a few times but I've never had to wait that long. I definitely had a lot of butterflies in my stomach."

While Osborne-Paradis stole the spotlight yesterday, a few other Canadian racers made some significant strides towards earning their first podiums.

Starting in the 61st position, Calgary's Jan Hudec battled to a 17th-place finish.

Despite the No. 51 starting bib, fellow Calgarian John Kucera posted a time of 1:51.87 to end his day in 14th and the honour of being the second-fastest Canuck.

Despite all this, the day belonged to Osborne-Paradis, who almost didn't even finish yesterday.

"I almost fell up there," he said.

"It was near the top. It's really uneven snow in there because they just kind of let the snow guns just go loose. I caught a little bit of an edge and just about fell on my inside."

His previous best finish on the World Cup circuit was 12th in Val d'Isere, France, last season.

Osborne-Paradis almost etched his name in Canadian ski racing history with Rob Boyd of Vernon, B.C.

Boyd remains the only racer to win on home turf when he grabbed gold in the downhill in 1989 at Whistler.

For Buechel, winning here was a dream come true.

"This is a very special day," said Buechel.

"When I think back, I didn't expect to win.

"I hurt myself training a couple of weeks ago and my rib cage is hurting very much.

"My biggest goal all summer was to win Lake Louise but I thought that was impossible after I got hurt but I did it."


Photos