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Manny is 'The Man'

Posted: Wednesday, March 11, 2009 | 04:26 AM

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There is something to be said for being a blast from the past. Maybe that's what gives Manuel Osborne-Paradis his "Mojo" or whatever it is they call it these days.

For my money, Manny's got more than talent and all the right equipment to go along with a state of the art support staff.

Manny's got gusto – plain and simple.

Osborne-Paradis has been ripping up downhill courses to finish the season and whatever the result in the final at Are, Sweden, he stands to put himself in the driver’s seat when they’re talking about frontrunners for the Olympic downhill on the Dave Murray track at Whistler next February.

Back-to-back podium finishes, including the first win of Manny's career in Norway, have created the buzz. But if you look a little deeper, the 24-year-old from North Vancouver has been around the block and done some things over the past three seasons. Let's talk about a total of six World Cup podium finishes and counting in a still young career. That ties him with Rob Boyd and leaves him one behind Todd Brooker, both iconic figures in Canadian alpine lore.

"He's exactly the way I was," Brooker told me while making his way to Toronto from Georgian Bay country to call the last races of the season.

"They call him 'Manny Fitness,' he's big and heavy and he likes to go straight and fast. He gets down in that tuck and lets the belly hang a bit, then he just picks up speed."

That's old time downhill racing and that's all Manny Osborne-Paradis does. Oh sure, he may dabble in the Super-G to get in a little practice, but he's not much on turning to make gates, so he'd rather not bother. He likes the wide-open, lazy turns where you gather speed as opposed to trying to harness it. I've seen him nearly wipe out in a bumper pad at the longest course on the circuit in Wengen, Switzerland, and still make it to the podium.

Invariably, Osborne-Paradis is all about the thrill of the chase. He smiles a lot and gets a kick out of staying up late, listening to loud music and surfing. His enthusiasm for this thrilling sport is infectious and in a self-effacing sort of way, he doesn't much get the fuss that's being made over him.

"Definitely in my whole skiing career, from when I was 12-years-old, I've always been the second best guy at everything that I've done," he told me after descending from a helicopter at Farnham Glacier last season. "I've always worked my way up, being the guy that's behind the guy who is in the limelight."

Well, such is not the case anymore.

After finishing sixth in the World Cup downhill standings last season, Manny is poised to be Canada's best downhill racer for the second campaign in a row. But that doesn't mean you can expect Manny to shave his scruffy beard and head to the gym on a regular basis or take up Yoga in a serious way.

That's not Manny's style.

He'd probably rather throw caution to the wind and go hell bent for leather for the bottom of the mountain and hope he gets there first.

It's why, no matter what happens for the rest of this fading season, Manny is one of the men to watch come the Olympics at Whistler. And get this - Whistler is Manny's home club, the place where he grew up.

"He gets faster as the course gets wide-open," Brooker said. "He just doesn’t turn that well. He's not a technical guy but he knows how to carry speed."

And because he's a downhill racer first and foremost – that's what makes Manny, "The Man."

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