CALGARY, ALTA. (August 2, 2012) — One of the finest groups of speed skiers ever assembled by Canada enjoyed a reunion of sorts at the first men’s downhill camp of the summer in Zermatt, Switzerland.
They joined a formidable group that included reigning world downhill champion Erik Guay, 2007 world downhill silver medallist Jan Hudec, 2012 breakout star Ben Thomsen – the newest member of the Canadian Cowboys after his podium in Sochi, Russia – and Robbie Dixon, who came agonizingly close to his first World Cup top-three finish last season with a fourth-place result in super-G.
Together, the group has collected three world championship medals and 34 World Cup podiums. And for the first time since 2009, when Kucera broke his leg, they’re all fit and healthy.
“It’s a big group of strong skiers,” said Osborne-Paradis, who has recovered from a knee injury suffered in 2011, as well as a back complaint that put his return to racing on hold last season. “I haven’t been a round the team for a while and it was good to have Johnny back. (John and I) will be coming back and there might not be too much success for us early in the season. But if everybody stays healthy we have a chance to be one of the best teams we’ve ever had by Sochi. That’s really going to be what pulls us all together.”
The men’s and ladies’ alpine teams – technical and speed – have all taken part in snow camps in Zermatt at some point over the past month. Conditions, especially for the men’s speed team, have been excellent for this time of year.
“The weather was as good as it gets in Zermatt,” said Pete Bosinger, head coach of the men’s alpine team. “You have to expect that you are always going to lose a couple of days when you are skiing there (due to weather) but we were extremely lucky.
“With the downhill team there was a lot of basic skill acquisition, training to find comfort on the new skis. It was good for everyone just to start over again. The (track) was nothing too steep; consistent snow, lots of repetition on skis.
“This is one of the first times since the fall of 2009 when the whole team has been healthy. Based on what the conditioning coaches are saying and what the athletes showed, I think in general everyone’s in a much better place physiologically. They’ve done a lot of work preparing their bodies for the season. The conditioning is really good. They are fit and healthy. For all of us this is an exciting place to be.”
Osborne-Paradis, 28, described the camp as “the best one I’ve been to in years.”
“Every day we went up there it was perfect skiing. That doesn’t happen ever,” Osborne-Paradis said. “We were just getting used to the new skis (due to equipment specifications changing). It’s a perfect way to get back to snow. There’s nothing super dangerous or super hard.
“The back still a little sore so I need to stay on top of it but all in all it feels a lot stronger and everything’s good with the knee.”
Osborne-Paradis, of Vancouver, B.C., was one of several people who identified Thomsen as a potential star and helped the Invermere, B.C., native access the resources he needed to compete on the World Cup circuit and eventually earn a spot on the Canadian Alpine Ski Team. He said Thomsen’s success – he ended the 2011-12 season ranked 15th in the world in downhill – was a huge morale-booster and it was helpful to have such an accomplished group of skiers working together in Zermatt.
“It’s great. Everybody who was at the camp knows how to have success,” he said. “Sometimes younger guys are looking for influence or guidance. But having a core World Cup group, everybody knows what they need.
“I’m glad we were able to help Ben and people were able to notice him. It’s just good to see another guy on the team do well.”
Kucera, of Calgary, Alta., has endured a difficult road back to skiing after breaking his leg in 2009 and then reinjuring it in 2011 before being laid low by a back problem last season. As such, his priority is to stay focused on staying healthy and continuing his comeback.
“I’m building back to where I was. I just want to do the best I can,” Kucera said. “The camp was good. It went really well.
“Ben is the new addition to the team since (my injury) but it was really nice to have a small group of guys. It was focused and a lot of good work got done. There was good energy.
“We are a good group and it’s good to have all those competitive guys there. It’s always good to train in a competitive environment. We all push each other . . . We are in a good place right now.”
Next week the men’s speed team will head to Aspen, USA, for a dryland training block. Further snow camps are planned for later this summer and fall before the first speed races of the World Cup season get underway on home soil in Lake Louise, Alta., in late November.
“It’s pretty much like the season’s started. It’s just nice just to get back into the routine of racing,” Osborne-Paradis said. “We are born and bred for this. This is the only way of life I know. It’s hard for me to just sit still.”
ABOUT ALPINE CANADA ALPIN
Alpine Canada Alpin is the national governing body for alpine, para-alpine and ski cross racing in Canada. With the support of valued corporate partners along with the Government of Canada, Own the Podium and the Canadian Olympic Committee, Alpine Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic, world championship and World Cup medallists to stimulate visibility, inspiration and growth in the ski community.
Director, Communications | Directeur des Communications
Alpine Canada Alpin
#153, 401 – 9th Avenue SW, Calgary, AB T2P 3C5