Skiers saddle up

ERIC FRANCIS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

Now that they've got the record, the Canadian men's alpine ski team needs a catchy new name to go with it.

So, after Erik Guay's season-ending bronze in super-G yesterday eclipsed the Crazy Canucks' record of 11 podium finishes in a World Cup campaign, the team leader unveiled the group's new handle.

"Over beers the team sort of decided on Canadian Cowboys," chuckled Guay, 25, following the World Cup finals race in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. "The Crazy Canucks were great but that was a long time ago. We're such a young team and so inexperienced - we really didn't think about breaking the record all year."

Early in the season, when Alpine Canada CEO Ken Read announced an aggressive goal of 12 medals for all his skiers, the former Crazy Canuck referred to the talented young crew as the Carving Canucks.

It didn't take.

"We don't like that one at all," laughed Guay.

"Carving Canucks sort of falls into the technical side. Thing is, I think a nickname has to be named more by the media than the athletes. You have to earn it. Hey ... we really don't care what we're called."

Nor does Read.

"Whatever makes them go fast," he smiled.

On paper they're simply the best men's team Canada has ever assembled, which is shocking when you consider both the notoriety of the Crazy Canucks of the '70s and the years of poor performances by Canadian skiers of late. Combined with Jan Hudec's shocking downhill silver at the Worlds and two medals from the women's side the Canadian team had a record 14 podiums, beating the old team mark from 1982.

"I think this was the start of something bigger," said Calgary's 22-year-old John Kucera, who set the tone by winning the season-opening super-G at Lake Louise -- the first top-10 finish of his young career. "We'll be the next step in Canadian ski racing."

Symbolic of the team's meteoric rise to prominence, Kucera's goal this season was simply to crack the top 30. He wound up finishing third overall in super-G.

"For sure the early podiums got the momentum going," said Kucera, 37th in super-G last year. "We were younger the last few years and gained experience from that. When you're a ski racer you generally peak around age 26 or 27. We don't have a single guy on our team that has peaked yet. We're starting to learn how to be on the podium."

After watching Kucera, Vancouver's Manny Osborne-Paradis and Bourque breakthrough early on, Guay pieced five podiums together to give him nine in his young career. It ties him with Canmore's Thomas Grandi as the third-winningest Canadian male skier behind Steve Podborski (20) and Ken Read (14).

And while few Canadians are familiar with any of the Canadian Cowboys just yet, it appears that could all change with the 2010 Games in Whistler just around the corner.

"It's really important not to get too much of a swollen head, so we have to work hard this summer and move on from here," said Guay, a native of Mont-Tremblant, Que.


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