It's ski season ...

ALISON KORN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:35 AM ET

TORONTO - My kids are signed up for their first downhill ski lessons this Sunday and their mom is scared.

Not that they'll go fast enough to have any risky wipeouts at this early stage. But what if they love it, pursue it, and end up racing? Yikes.

Amid the grisly crash footage on YouTube and the Canadian alpine ski team's recent rash of serious injuries to leading athletes, you have to wonder if downhill skiing is now facing some sort of image crisis.

On Saturday, Manuel Osborne-Paradis suffered a broken leg and torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee when he crashed during a World Cup downhill race in Chamonix, France. He is the fifth Canadian skier sidelined this season, along with several others last season who aren't yet back racing.

It must be noted that they're all impressive in their resolve and they accept the risks of the sport they love. But that doesn't mean I'll be showing my kids the gory photo Kelly McBroom bravely posted on her blog last month.

"It's like they first took a hacksaw to my leg and then had Spiderman throw up all over it," McBroom wrote as a caption to a photo of a skin graft covering much of her left shin. "I almost threw up the first time I saw this and it still gives me shivers to think that this is now part of my body. I can feel it at all times, even through a lot of pain medication. It's not very comfortable having this on top of a broken leg right underneath the scars."

Oh, man. Here's wishing a quick and full recovery to all these athletes. So what does Alpine Canada have to say?

"We are very concerned about the number of injuries we are seeing in ski racing," said president Max Gartner, announcing a safety summit to be held in April. "We are not going to be able to eliminate all risk, but we want to make sure we are responsible and make this sport as safe as possible."

Gartner confirmed that injures at the lower level are also up. That's worrisome, too.

"Domestically, I want to assure people that we have a great, exciting, healthy sport and we'll do everything that we can to put the rules in place that allow people to be as safe as possible," Gartner added. "I think it's time for us to re-examine what we do at the lower level as the sport evolves. For example, do we need to have speed events early in the development of an athlete?"

Contrast all this to all the copious good news coming out of Cross Country Canada. Their announcements are all about medals, not injuries: On Monday, 22-year-old Alex Harvey won the Under-23 world championship title in the 30-kilomentre pursuit in Estonia. In January's Tour de Ski, Devon Kershaw racked up four medals in eight races. And in December in Germany, 2006 Olympic gold medallist Chandra Crawford and Daria Gaizova won a bronze in a team sprint relay.

Along with the results, there are no spectacular injuries to key athletes in cross country, at the moment. So I've got to wonder, did I pick the wrong boards for my kids?

Downhill skiing, please prove us wrong.

CHAMILOVA HAS RHYTHM

Canadian Mariam Chamilova of Maple, Ont. is making an impression in the European-dominated sport of rhythmic gymnastics. On Sunday, the 17-year-old high school student got the 2011 World Cup season off to a solid start with a sixth-place finish in the clubs final at the rhythmic gymnastics World Cup in Montreal. That result is "a huge deal," according to Alexandra Orlando, a 2008 Olympian and six-time 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist in the sport.

"This is the start of a very busy and important season, Olympic qualification year," Orlando noted. "This was really the first time the top girls were out there and getting their feet wet. To show the judges this early on that she can put in four clean routines with minimal mistakes was a great impression. She will be under quite a lot of stress this year and the more she can get out in front of the top judges and compete against the best in the world, the more comfortable and prepared she'll be for World Championships at the end of the year."

TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER

Nicole Forrester, a 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist and seven-time Canadian champion, has agreed to put herself up for auction as a bachelorette in support for the Canadian Center for Abuse Awareness.

She'll be one of 21 famous people offering dream date packages, including former Blue Jays player Drew Taylor and Elena Semikina, the reigning Miss Universe Canada. The Eligible Inc. Bachelor & Bachelorette Charity Auction takes place on February 3 at the Capitol Event Theatre in Toronto, Ontario. Tickets cost $100. To find out more, visit eligiblebachelorauction.ca


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