Victory for hard-luck Canuck

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:19 AM ET

More than two weeks later than he'd dreamed of, Erik Guay finally got to stand on top of the podium and hear his national anthem.

Doing well to help erase memories of two fifth-place Olympic finishes in Whistler last month, the 28-year-old skier claimed the first World Cup super-G win of his career Sunday in Kvitfjell, Norway.

"I'm definitely not going to forget the Olympics because I came so close and it was heartbreaking, but this is a little bit of redemption," said the veteran skier from Mont-Tremblant, Que.

"(At Whistler,) I was three hundredths off the (super-G) podium, and this time, I was two-hundredths ahead, so sometimes you're on one side of it and sometimes on the other. I would like to have done it at the Olympics, but I was just on the wrong side of the hundredths.

"Today, I think I was just able to take the risks."

Although one of the most decorated alpine skiers in Canadian history with 11 World Cup podium finishes, Guay has battled injury and confidence issues the last few years. Following a brilliant season three years ago when he had five podium finishes, Sunday's triumph marked just his second podium climb in the last two years.

"Getting the monkey off my back feels good," said Guay, who considers himself a bit of a hard-luck skier -- one of his many fourth-place finishes came in the Turin Games' super-G. "Coming here from the Olympics, there's less pressure and less spectators, and it's easier to concentrate."

The downside was that instead of having millions join in on O Canada following his win, his victory ceremony was held halfway around the world, punctuated by a smattering of applause from the tiny crowd of onlookers. If they were surprised to see Guay on the top step ... well ... so was he.

"My initial thought was of surprise -- I didn't think I was in the lead," said Guay, of his double fist-pump in the finish area following his run as the 18th skier down.

"The only thing in my mind was the small mistakes and how in the past they've meant finishing 4th or 5th. I didn't think I had a winning run, but I guess that's what happens when you take chances."

Suggesting he generally races about 80% in terms of taking risks, Guay said he put more on the line Sunday, paying off with the Canadian team's sixth top-three finish of the season and his first. It also earned him the use of a GMC vehicle for a year.

"I feel a lot of the time I ski a little bit safe, and when I get down, I wish I pushed more," said Guay, whose only other win was a 2007 downhill win in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where the third-ranked super-G skier will enter the last race of the season this weekend with an outside shot of claiming the discipline's World Cup title.

"It doesn't mean I unlocked the secret, but I did take more risks, and it paid off. I'm really excited -- super pumped. It's been a long time."

Guay edged Austrian Hannes Reichelt by two-hundredths of a second, while Norwegian Olympic downhill silver-medal winner Aksel Lund Svindal tied Swiss skier Tobias Gruenenfelder for third, just .31 seconds back. Guay joined Calgary resident Manuel Osborne-Paradis as the only Canadians to win a downhill and a super-G.

Osborne-Paradis was 11th, and Calgary's Jan Hudec 17th.

"I appreciate it a lot more now because I know how much work goes into it," Guay said. "I have to thank my coaches and everyone who stuck with me because it's tough to win races."

No one knows that better than Guay.


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