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SEMMERING, AUT (Dec. 29, 2012) — Four Canadians finished in the top 30 in Saturday’s night slalom in Semmering, Austria, as a talented young ladies’ technical team proved they will be a force to be reckoned with in the lead-up to the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games.
Led by a career-best 16th-place finish from Brittany Phelan, and 18th-, 20th- and 23rd-place results for Erin Mielzynski, Marie-Michèle Gagnon and Elli Terwiel, Canada showed it has developed strength in depth after a breakthrough 2011-12 season which saw both Mielzynski and Gagnon celebrate their first career World Cup podiums. Although official records were not available immediately after the race, it’s one of the first times four Canadians have finished in the top 30 in a ladies’ slalom race.
“We are pretty positive about our future here, starting with the next couple of races,” said Jim Pollock, head technical coach for the ladies’ alpine team.
“We are really happy with having four in the top 30 – we’re pretty impressed with Britt and Elli. Erin and ‘Mitch’ (Gagnon) didn’t do quite as well as they could but our expectations are high and theirs are high, so we are just going to keep working away.”
Phelan, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., came into this year seeking the first top-30 finish of her career on the World Cup tour and she’s now a perfect four for four this season.
“I was pretty happy with that – I wanted to be top 20,” said Phelan, who clocked a two-run combined time of one minute, 39.99 seconds. “I can’t remember us having four in the second run before – that was really cool.”
Phelan’s previous best in a World Cup race was a 21st-place finish in Aspen, USA, in November.
“I was pretty happy with my first run,” Phelan said. “I made a few mistakes but I went for it. In the second run I went with the same approach and had a couple of little mistakes. It was a pretty good day.”
Mielzynski, of Guelph, Ont. – the first Canadian since 1971 to win a World Cup slalom race – is pushing for podium results this season and was not happy with her performance.
“It’s good having four in the second run but personally I’m very, very disappointed with how I skied,” said Mielzynski, who clocked a two-run combined time of 1:40.16. “I made mistake after mistake. I tried to pull myself out of it but what I was trying wasn’t going my way.
“Training has been going well and I’ve been feeling good but the mistakes I made are mistakes I don’t (normally) make.”
Mielzynski is now heading to Munich, Germany to represent Canada at the dual slalom city event that’s due to be held on Jan. 1. Meanwhile, Gagnon, of Lac-Etchemin, Que., will return to training as she tries to rebuild her confidence following a dip in form.
“It’s been a tough couple of races, for sure,” said Gagnon, who had a two-run combined time of 1:40.38 but was disappointed with the way she skied. “It was good to be back in the top 15 on Friday (in the giant slalom) but my confidence is way down.
“In the first run I just wanted to finish and you could tell in the (way I was) skiing. I was being really careful. In the second run I made a couple of mistakes. I’m going to do some training now – that’s what I need.”
Terwiel, of Sun Peaks, B.C., recorded the second top-30 result of her career Saturday – and her first of this season – on the back of two solid runs.
“I feel like it’s definitely building,” said Terwiel, who clocked a two-run combined time of 1:40.75. “I would like to be top 30 every race but it’s been a big year of learning. I feel like our team is really strong and I think all five of us can get into the top 30.”
Ève Routhier, of Sherbrooke, Que., didn’t advance to the second run after finishing 39th in the first run. Only the top 30 qualify for the second run.
“Having four girls in the second run is great,” said Hugues Ansermoz, head coach of the ladies’ alpine team. “We are just missing one of the girls bring in front (with a top-10) – otherwise we would be happy with it. We are not far off but we expect (more).”
Slovakia’s Veronika Velez Zuzulova secured the first World Cup win of her career Saturday after clocking a two-run combined time of 1:37.28. Austria’s Kathrin Zettel was second (1:37.38) and Slovenian superstar Tina Maze was third (1:37.48). Maze leads both the slalom and overall World Cup standings, while Mielzynski sits 13th in the overall slalom rankings.
Next up for the ladies’ team – following the city event – is a slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, on Jan. 4.
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