Canada's Erik Guay poses with the Crystal Globe after claiming the overall World Cup super-G title last March. (Thomas Lohnes/AFP/Getty Images)
He carries his sport's greatest treasure in a silver case the size of a hatbox. Yet, Canadian ski racing star Erik Guay is anonymous as he strolls down Toronto's busy Yonge Street.
"Kind of looks like I'm carrying my makeup kit," Guay grins. "But this, for a skier, is like winning the Stanley Cup I would imagine."
With that the 29-year-old native of Mont Tremblant, Que., extracts the Crystal Globe emblematic of being the season's best super-G skier on the World Cup circuit. In Europe, he's a god. Guay is the first Canadian since Steve Podborski in 1982 to win the Globe.
"It was the culmination of a lot of hard work," Guay says with obvious pride as he cradles the Globe. "It meant so much to not only me but to my mother and father and to every member of our ski racing family."
Erik Guay missed two gold medals by mere 100ths of a second at the Olympics in Whistler. For these close calls he's been written off, along with other members of the Canadian alpine ski team who failed to reach the podium, as underachievers.
Nothing could be further from the truth, especially in Guay's case.
Consistent all season long
"The importance of winning that Crystal Globe is lost on many Canadians," says world downhill champion John Kucera. "The Olympics is a big event, but a one-day event. The Globe means that you are the force in your discipline all season long."
Being underrated is nothing new for Guay. His statistics speak volumes. With 13 podium finishes on the World Cup, he is one shy of Ken Read's career total of 14 and only seven behind Podborski who is the all-time Canadian leader. Read and Podborski claim legendary status as members of the Crazy Canucks.
Meantime, Erik Guay shows every sign that he may someday soon surpass his heroes.
"He didn't have anyone to show him the way," acknowledges teammate Manuel Osborne-Paradis, who is a few years younger than Guay. "Erik was on his own on the way up and he's figured out how to do this all on his own."
He is a winter superstar who has eluded the limelight. For Erik Guay, it's a shame because only now is he entering his prime.
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He is skiing's constant Canuck who may someday be remembered as the greatest of them all.