VanderBeek nears the peak

DARREN FRIESEN, CALGARY SUN

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

LAKE LOUISE -- There weren't any records set or medals awarded but it was a step in the right direction.

Following a couple remarkable performances from the Canadian men's ski team last weekend -- when Calgary's John Kucera and Vancouver's Manuel Osborne-Paradis won gold and silver, respectively -- it was the women's turn yesterday to continue the home country's hardware haul at the Winterstart World Cup.

Alas, they failed to podium during the season-opening downhill race but Kelly VanderBeek finished sixth, a personal best for the Chilliwack, B.C., resident.

She finished with a time of one minute 52.36 seconds.

"I know I could've been on the podium today," admitted the 23-year-old, who narrowly missed a medal at the Turin Games.

"I skied the top section very well but relaxed too early and gave away too much in the flats.

"But sixth place is a really solid result here. It's my first top-10 in downhill and it feels great. It's an excellent way to start the season."

VanderBeek, who's one of the bright stars on the women's squad, has been establishing herself the past couple seasons as someone who could find the top of podium sooner rather than later.

VanderBeek is hoping that could happen as early as today when the women race in the second of two downhill events.

"I am hungry for (today) and will be more attentive in the flat section," she said.

"I am a good glider . That is my best strength but you have to be consistent from the top to the bottom. I let some girls come in (yesterday) and hopefully I'll be much more solid (today)."

Maria Riesch of Germany grabbed gold in 1:51.31.

American Lindsey Kildow (1:51.74) was second and Nadia Fanchini of Italy (1:52.06) third.

The next best Canadian was Whistler's Britt Janyk, who was 20th in 1:53.56.

A couple of Canadians not as happy were Genevieve Simard of Val-Morin, Que., who skied off the course, and Emily Brydon of Fernie, B.C., who finished a disappointing 27th.

For Riesch, the victory was particularly special, as she sat out a good portion of last season after ripping up her knee in Aspen, Colo.

"After my injury last year, I wasn't sure if I could come back and be fast and ski without fear," said Riesch.

"It is so good to know I can win races and am not scared after my injury. To win the first downhill after my injury is amazing."

Racing was stopped for a long stretch after Sweden's Jessica Lindell-Vikarby took a nasty spill near the top of the hill.

She immediately got up following her crash but was still evacuated via helicopter. She was listed in good condition last night.

MILLER GOOD AS GOLD:

Bode Miller is the best in Beaver Creek, Colo.

The American grabbed the gold in the downhill yesterday with a time of 1:46.15 to win his first World Cup race of the season. Calgary's John Kucera, who won the super-G at Lake Louise last Sunday, finished 23rd. Compatriots Francois Bourque was 25th, Manuel Osborne-Paradis 27th while Erik Guay did not finish.


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