The FIS has awarded the season-opening race, which also includes super-G, the second World Cup downhill.
Phil McNichol recognized the significance of this week’s return of racing to the Banff National Park ski resort in Lake Louise, Alta., based on the racers’ and coaches’ body language and talk.
After taking a season off because of the Corona pandemic, the only Canadian stop on the World Cup Alpine skiing circuit will feature season-opening men’s downhill competitions on Friday and Saturday and super-G on Sunday, with the women’s competition taking place next weekend.
McNichol, who is in his second season as Alpine Canada’s high-performance director, told CBC Sports, “You can tell they’re excited to do what they do in front of Canadians and at home.” “The [Canadian] athletes have participated in North American Cup events and other competitions here since they were kids, so they’re used to it, and Lake Louise has an even deeper calming impact, especially for first-race nerves.” The Europeans compete all year in their own country. Coming to North America, training for a couple of weeks, and racing is a major trip for them. They are ecstatic to be back.”
The loss of the popular Lake Louise event was felt not only economically in the local community but also as a challenge to a sport that struggles to gain attention in North America even in the best of times.
“I’m new to Alpine Canada, and it’s no secret that, despite being a strong winter country, we struggle to have the financial means and support in such a small niche sport,” said McNichol, who previously worked with the US men’s Alpine team. “We need these [World Cup] events, and we need to stay relevant in people’s minds and eyes, so Lake Louise is crucial.”
The International Ski Federation awarded Lake Louise a second downhill for the men’s programme for the first time, a format that McNichol said has been “successful” on the women’s side for 12 years and should favour Canadian skiers who are familiar with the line.
The men’s downhill was last competed at Lake Louise on Nov. 30, 2019, and Thomas Dressen of Germany won by 2-100ths of a second over Italy’s Dominik Paris.
Jeff Read of Calgary was the top Canadian in 46th position, followed by Brodie Seger of North Vancouver, B.C., and Cam Alexander of North Vancouver, B.C., in 47th and 48th place, respectively, and Toronto’s Jack Crawford in 57th place.
Seasons of breakthrough
Given Seger and Crawford’s breakout seasons last year, Canadian men’s coach John Kucera, who won the Lake Louise super-G in 2006, and McNichol are hoping for better results this weekend as the Canadians and others prepare for the chance to be named to their respective countries’ Olympic teams for Beijing in February.
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