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Bronze gets Guay a Canadian record


BORMIO, Italy — Canada’s Erik Guay was heavily influenced by the “Crazy Canucks” during his formative years on the slopes.

Now he’s breaking their records.

Guay won World Cup bronze in the downhill Sunday for his 21st career podium appearance, breaking the Canadian record previously held by Steve Podborski.

“Those are the racers I grew up watching and admiring,” Guay said. “It’s special.”

Podborski and fellow Crazy Canucks Ken Read, Dave Irwin, Dave Murray and Jim Hunter produced historic results for Canada in the 1970s and 1980s. Podborski’s 20 World Cup podium appearances came between 1979 and 1984 — all in the downhill.

Guay won his first World Cup medal 10 years ago with a downhill silver at Lake Louise. He has won 15 World Cup medals in the downhill — including gold a week earlier — and six in the super-G.

“Honestly I think tying Steve was more important,” Guay said. “I knew that it was kind of over and at least I had that. To break it is obviously great, especially the weekend after. But it wasn’t really my ambition right now. I was just focusing on the race at hand.

“But to get that record is incredible and to be part of that group of elite athletes with Steve Podborski is really special.”

Overall World Cup leader Aksel Lund Svindal mastered the fresh snow conditions on the Stelvio course on Sunday for his fourth victory of the Olympic season.

The Norwegian clocked one minute 54.08 seconds to finish 0.39 seconds ahead of Hannes Reichelt of Austria. Guay was 0.51 seconds back in third, for a strong follow-up to his victory in Val Gardena.

“On the top it was difficult to be precise because it was soft and you can’t push too hard with the edges,” Svindal said. “So I just tried to ski the top part really well and then from the San Pietro jump down that’s usually where Bormio is decided and that was to my advantage down there.”

Svindal trailed Guay at every checkpoint but then gained 0.65 seconds over the last few gates. Guay, from Mont-Tremblant, Que., made a slight but costly error, lifting up his left ski to regain his balance after cutting off a turn too sharply.

“Maybe I got a little bit greedy on the bottom section trying to cut line and I paid for it,” Guay said.

Still, Guay has become Svindal’s top challenger in the speed events.

“I’m really excited about my skiing at the moment,” said Guay, who has had knee surgeries the past two off-seasons. “For the first time I know why I’m fast. It’s not like it was a lucky shot in Val Gardena.”

Guay, 32, won the super-G Crystal Globe in 2010 and took the world downhill title a year later. He’s on track to challenge for his first Olympic medal at the Sochi Games — the only major honour that has eluded him.

It was the first time Guay had reached the podium at Bormio. He remains second in the downhill standings and is seventh in the overall World Cup rankings.

“It was important to finish the year strong and we’re totally happy with the situation we find ourselves in with Erik,” said Canadian men’s team head coach Martin Rufener. “We all know he returned to snow in October (following knee surgery). Sometimes when you get back from an injury and a longer rest it gives your body another kick.

“When you get results like this it helps with the mental strength and confidence. It’s so important to have Erik as the team leader, showing that he’s on top of the world. It helps the other guys and shows the next group what they have to do.”

The start of the race was delayed for 40 minutes due to fog and low visibility, and overnight snow provided a much softer surface than during the two training sessions Friday and Saturday. It was also snowing on the top half of the course during the race for early starters.

Svindal extended his overall lead ahead of two-time defending champion Marcel Hirscher to 195 points. The Norwegian also leads the downhill standings and is shaping up as the top favourite for the speed events at the Winter Games, which start in 40 days.

Svindal won a medal of each colour at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Still, he had never won in Bormio and missed out on victory last season by 0.01 — the smallest margin possible — when Reichelt and Dominik Paris of Italy shared the victory.

Paris sat out this race as he recovers from a fall in Val Gardena.

“Maybe it wasn’t as tough this year because it wasn’t so icy but from the San Pietro jump down it was still fast and bumpy,” Svindal said, referring to the course’s biggest jump midway down. “This is a cool race to win.”

Calgary’s Jan Hudec was 14th, Manuel Osborne-Paradis of North Vancouver, B.C., was 21st and Conrad Pridy of Whistler, B.C., was 29th. Robbie Dixon of Whistler was 32nd, Benjamin Thomsen of Invermere, B.C., was 37th and Jeffrey Frisch of Mont-Tremblant was 41st.

 
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