Made parents proud

ERIC FRANCIS

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

LAKE LOUISE -- Canada's top female downhillers will be battling two daunting elements at this weekend's Bombardier Winterstart World Cup.

The first comes in the form of temperatures ranging from -22 to -33 for today's downhill and tomorrow's super G.

The second stems from the growing divide between a surging Canadian men's team and a struggling women's squad out-medaled 13-2 last season.

"There's a little bit of jealousy from time to time," admitted a smiling Emily Brydon after yesterday's final training run.

"But they've only out-skied us once in, what, the last 15 years, so they have to do it again before they can really start to brag."

A little friendly trash talk aside, there's little doubt the men's success puts added pressure on a women's side that has battled through injuries and inexperience the last few years. Things didn't get any easier for the women last weekend when Jan Hudec's season-opening downhill win here overshadowed the ladies technical races in Panorama.

However, as Alpine Canada president Ken Read is hoping, the depth and competitiveness of the men's team could rub off on the women's squad.

"We just watched Jan's run on video and we're doing our homework," said Whistler's Britt Janyk, 27, top Canadian in training yesterday, finishing 16th.

"The course is very similar compared to the guys course and we know where he gained time. It's good to have his run in our video file."

In the women's defence, knee injuries have sidelined veterans Gen Simard and Allison Forsyth for the season, leaving Janyk, Brydon and Kitchener's Kelly VanderBeek to spearhead a young team building for 2010.

"What the men's team has that we are so close to having is teamwork," said 11-year veteran Brydon, 18th yesterday after an exploding ski caused an opening day face-plant.

"To have a team where three or four or five can be on the podium any day (like the men's team) inspires you. Our speed team is the best it's been since I've been on the team. That will make us stronger and help us step up like the men did last year."

Last year it seemed to work as VanderBeek, 24, followed a strong start by the men here with her first World Cup podium the following week. This year she's been hampered by injuries including a wrist ailment that affects her starting push.

Many of the European skiers seem to think the Canadians have more than just a home course advantage this year as the freezing climes work in the hosts favour.

"I've always said you never get used to the cold but my coach told me that I'm supposed to say I am, so those other girls won't know what to do," chuckled Brydon, who coated her face in Vaseline and tape to prevent frostbite while others wore masks.

"Everyone is complaining but we're definitely more adjusted to it. We can handle it, but we still feel just as cold - our skin is no thicker I promise you."

It will have to be if the men keep winning and the women have another season struggling to find the podium.

Yesterday the men had a down day with Calgary's John Kucera finishing 13th in the downhill at Beaver Creek Colo. Erik Guay was 15th and Hudec 17th.

"The women are close to making that big breakthrough," insisted CBC's Kerrin Lee-Gartner, honoured at a gala tonight with fellow members of the 1988 Olympic ski team.

"The numbers aren't there yet - there are only three contenders on the speed side. There's no reason those three can't get results and feed off them."


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