VAL D’ISERE, France — Emily Brydon finally gave the beleaguered Canadian alpine ski team something to celebrate Friday.
The Fernie, B.C., native posted a career-best seventh-place finish at a World Cup super-combined event. Brydon finished with a combined time of two minutes 40.69 seconds in decreased visibility on the challenging course in the French Alps.
American Lindsey Vonn won the race in 2:37.55, more than a second faster than Maria Riesch of Germany (2:38.71). Elisabeth Goergl of Austria was third in 2:38.94.
Having lost five skiers to leg injuries in the past three weeks — the latest being Francois Bourque, who suffered a suspected torn ACL on Friday in Val Gardena, Italy — the Canadian team has been decimated less than two months before the start of the Vancouver Olympics. Brydon, who suffered knee injuries prior to the 2002 Games, said Friday’s race was one of the toughest she has ever run.
“This has been probably some of the hardest times that I can remember being on the team,” said Brydon. “With (John Kucera) and then (Jean-Philippe Roy), it was a real slap in the face. Then when it hits so close to home it really makes you think and it really affects you.
“With Larisa (Yurkiw) it was really sad and really hard. With Kelly (Vanderbeek) it started to become more of a ’why is this happening?’ There is luck involved and it just feels like it is not on Canada’s side.”
Brydon said her thoughts were with her fallen teammates.
“It was a difficult time for me when you feel the sadness,” said Brydon. “My heart felt broken for those girls. To be able to compartmentalize it and go out there and ski today was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done.
“I experienced both of my knee injuries in 2001 and my second one was three months from the Games. I remember what it felt like to have that dream taken away from you. So I really feel for these girls and guys. I can only imagine what it is like when it is the Olympics at home.”
Shona Rubens of Canmore, Alta., did not finish Friday’s downhill but was not injured.
Vonn secured her third win of the season following downhill victories earlier this month in Lake Louise, Alta.
“I now hope to do better than in Lake Louise and make it three out of three,” Vonn said ahead of Saturday’s downhill and Sunday’s super-G. “But I will take it one day at a time.”
Riesch had to take big risks in the slalom run to make up her deficit, and nearly straddled a gate in the upper part of the course.
Defending super-combi World Cup champion Anja Paerson of Sweden shared fourth place with Austrian Michaela Kirchgasser, 2.09 seconds behind Vonn.
Kirchgasser was just 18th after the downhill, but had the fastest slalom run of 50.91 seconds.