World Downhill Champ Erik Guay Claims 15th Career Medal
Canada’s Erik Guay added to his growing medal collection on Friday by following up his stunning victory at the World Championships with a second-place finish in the men’s downhill at Kvitfjell, Norway.
Guay, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was crowned world downhill champion in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, in his last race and produced another smooth performance on one of his favourite hills Friday to record a second successive top-three finish.
The result is the 15th World Cup podium of Guay’s career and moves him ahead of retired Canadian ski racing legend and Crazy Canuck Ken Read, who had 14. Guay is now second all-time among Canadian men behind Steve Podborski, who recorded 20 career World Cup podiums.
Guay’s performance was the highlight of a day to remember for Canada’s men’s team, with veteran Jan Hudec, of Calgary, finishing a season’s best 10th and young Ben Thomsen, of Invermere, B.C., cracking the top 20 with an 18th-place finish.
“It was great in Garmisch. I’m really happy to be able to follow it up with another podium, so it didn’t seem like a one-shot deal,” said Guay, of winning the marquee downhill race at the world championships in February.
“To be ahead of some of the Crazy Canucks, it’s very special, for sure. I will keep working on it!
“I think there’s a couple of areas I could have cleaned up but it was a pretty solid run. I took advantage of my start position and the conditions were in my favour.”
Guay, 29, has had a lot of success at Kvitfjell, winning the super-G in 2010 and coming second in the downhill in 2007.
Starting eighth on Friday, he clocked a time of one minute, 47.44 seconds to finish just 0.05 seconds behind Switzerland’s Beat Feuz. Austria’s Michael Walchhofer was third in 1:47.50. Conditions deteriorated as the race went on so it was tough going for some of the skiers starting at the back of the pack.
“With Erik the challenge is to manage expectations and pressure,” said Paul Kristofic, head coach of the men’s team. “It was good to see him have a really solid performance in the very next race (after the world championships).
“There’s always a little bit of luck with start numbers but you have to use it and take advantage of it. By no means was it a perfect run but his approach was good.”
Hudec, who has been hampered by injury problems this season, has been skiing well in training and sped down the course in 1:48.15 to record a 10th-place finish – his best result of the season on the World Cup circuit.
“It’s a pretty good feeling to be back in the points,” said Hudec. “It went pretty much according to plan. There were a couple of little mistakes here and there but I’m happy to finally feel, physically, like I can charge 100 per cent and take risks without risking my knee or my back, or whatever.
“It’s such a good feeling to know I can go out there and do it. With Erik being on the podium it was a great boost for our team. And Ben skied unbelievable today.”
Kristofic said it’s great to see Hudec put his injury concerns to one side and ski well.
“He’s in the best place he’s been in all year with regards to his back and his knees,” said Kristofic. “Coming in here he felt really confident and he put a great run together and a season’s best result. There were some really exceptional sections for him. It’s refreshing and really good to see.”
Thomsen, whose performances have been a bright spot for the men’s team this season, recorded the second top-20 World Cup result of his career when he tied for 18th with a time of 1:48.74. The result was all the more impressive considering he started with bib No. 53.
“That’s huge,” said Kristofic. “The most impressive thing is knowing that he had a crash six days ago (in training). We thought it was going to be really tough for him here.
“It was pretty courageous. He’s not feeling 100 per cent but I think that result speaks to his character.”
Ottawa resident Dustin Cook, of Lac Sainte Marie, Que., was 46th with a time of 1:50.49 and Kelby Halbert, of Bradford, Ont., was 51st in 1:50.95.