LAKE LOUISE — A shorter, and some say icy, course awaits at the Bombardier Lake Louise World Cup starting today.
The women will race the first of two downhills almost 150 metres lower on the mountain from their traditional starting point because of icy conditions higher up. The women are using the same start hut this week that the men used for their super-G race Sunday.
Normally, the women start the downhill from the same point as the men. The upper portion of the course was injected with water to make it faster for the men’s races last week and it was deemed unsafe for the women to ski that section.
“We thought it would be too challenging for the ladies,” race chairman John Cassels said Thursday. “This is one of the fastest tracks the ladies have. From the men’s downhill start, it would be almost a two-minute downhill for the ladies.
“So you say to yourself ’in challenging conditions, two minutes, first downhill of the season, is this a good idea?’ We concluded the answer was ‘no.’ We want these girls to move into the season with confidence with a good fast, challenging race, but we don’t want to put them at risk.”
Dominique Gisin of Switzerland won the Thursday’s final training run in a time of one minute 29.73 seconds.
Maria Riesch of Germany, a winner at Lake Louise in 2007, was second in 1:30.19 followed by Elena Fanchini of Italy in 1:30.38.
Canadians were far back in the pack for the second straight day. Britt Janyk of Whistler, B.C., was 50th. Georgia Simmerling of West Vancouver, B.C., was 52nd, Victoria Stevens of Mont-Tremblant, Que., finished 55th, followed by Kelly McBroom of Canmore in 56th and Calgary’s Stephanie Irwin in 57th.
Defending World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn, winner of both downhills here last year, was critical of the course, saying it was too icy for her skis to grip. The American was seventh in training Thursday. Gisin disagreed the course was too icy.
“It’s icy when you go for inspection with not as good skis, but if you have the speed and the good edges, it’s definitely doable,” Gisin said. “I like it icy like it is now. You still have good grip. It’s not that bad.”
Gisin also didn’t mind that the course was shortened.
“I think it’s a better decision to do a very nice course like it is now from there than if they would have tried to do it from the top,” she said.
Chemmy Alcott of Britain was airlifted off the mountain after a frightening crash and then transported by ambulance to hospital in nearby Banff. Alcott, who trains with the Canadian team, suffered a broken tibia and possible broken fibia in her right leg and was to be operated on by Canadian surgeon Mark Heard.
“This is not a limb-threatening injury,” Cassels said.
Riesch said she didn’t have a problem with the course length or conditions, but she pointed out there’s less time to recover from mistakes on a shorter course.
“It’s a little bit of a bigger challenge because the times will be closer, so you really have to do full attack and risk everything, have a good run with no mistakes,” she said.
Janyk, 30, is Canada’s best hope for a medal at Lake Louise. The rest of the Canadian team is 21 years old or younger and lack World Cup experience. Janyk was 20th in the first training run, but dropped to 49th on Wednesday.
“Definitely important to look at video and to see where I can get more speed, so I can carry that to the finish,” Janyk said.
“It’s important to look at it as just training. I’ve got things I’m working on and thinking about and some girls may be doing things differently.
“When it comes to race day, everybody is racing. I know that gear can be there.”
The World Cup concludes with Sunday’s super-G race. CBC will carry today’s race on-line at CBCSports.ca and on the specialty television channel Bold (12:25 p.m.). Saturday’s race will be on-line and also on the main CBC network (10 a.m.).