Kucera super on slopes

DARREN FRIESEN -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

LAKE LOUISE -- Call it the day of firsts.

First to come out of the starting gates, a first-place finish and the first Canadian to win a World Cup race in the Canadian Rockies.

This was John Kucera's reality yesterday as he beat the world's best skiers to win the super-G event at the Winterstart World Cup.

In doing so, Kucera became the only Canadian ski racer to ever win a World Cup race at Lake Louise and only the second homegrown two-planker to capture a gold medal in Canada.

Rob Boyd won the downhill in 1989 at Whistler but in 26 years of racing at Lake Louise, no Canuck has stood atop the podium.

"I always said it would be my dream to win a World Cup at home, so today that dream came true and I am just ecstatic. This is as good as it gets," said Kucera, who grew up racing down the road at Nakiska and Mt. Norquay.

Given the unenviable task of wearing the No. 1 starting bib didn't faze the 22-year-old Calgarian the slightest as he put down the fastest run of the afternoon at 1:29.70.

Like his teammate and roomie on the road, Manuel Osborne-Paradis -- the Vancouverite who won a silver medal in men's downhill the day before -- Kucera admitted it was hard to wait in the winner's tent as the world's best racers attempted to better his time.

"It was nerve-racking that's for sure," said Kucera, whose previous best finish on the World Cup circuit was 12th.

"My heart was beating like nothing else.

"I knew when Mario (Scheiber) came down only (six-one-hundreths) back, I knew I just won by the skin of my teeth.

"I'm just so happy right now."

Scheiber of Austria clocked the second-fastest time of the day (1:29.76), while Sweden's Patrik Jaerbyn grabbed the bronze medal with a time of 1:29.98.

Quebecer Erik Guay, the silver medallist in the downhill here in 2003, was the next fastest Canadian, finishing sixth with a time of 1:30.51.

While starting first doesn't traditionally produce the best results, it didn't have an effect on Kucera's performance yesterday.

If anything, getting first tracks paid off, especially in the middle section of the course.

"Number 1 is always an interesting bib," said Kucera. "Today, it was the best number to get. I nailed the technical section, which set up my speed for the (middle interval).

"I knew I needed to be strong in there. We had a NorAm setup like this a few years ago, so during inspection I thought it looked kind of familiar and I just nailed it.

"I've been racing here and forerunning here for the last five years, so I know this hill really well. I'm really comfortable on this mountain and I love racing here."

On hand yesterday to watch Kucera make Canadian history were his family and friends, who always knew he could perform at a high level.

"John has worked so hard for this, it's about time," said Kucera's brother James.

"I am so happy for him."

Kucera earned $28,000 of the $94,000 purse and a lease on a new GM vehicle.

The women arrive at Lake Louise this week for two downhills and a super-G race starting Friday.

The Canadian men's speed and technical teams head to Beaver Creek, Colo., for races starting Thursday.


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