Road to the Olympic Games: 4 things to watch this weekend
Alpine skiing, equestrian, luge action highlight shows
Hosted by veteran broadcasters Scott Russell and Andi Petrillo, Road to the Olympic Games chronicles athletes' journeys on and off the field of play. Here's what to look for on this weekend's shows on CBC Television and CBCSports.ca.
Norway's Big Red vs. the Canadian Cowboy
The downhill at Val Gardena, Italy signals the start of the European speed campaign for the men. And squarely in the fast lane is one of the most dominant alpine skiers in history.
Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal is back after a lost season which saw him rupture his Achilles tendon while playing soccer more than a year ago.
The affable and articulate giant promptly served notice he's ready to chase his 3rd-overall World Cup title by sweeping the downhill and Super G at Lake Louise, Alta., and adding another downhill victory at Beaver Creek, Colo., the following week.
Svindal has been dominant in the Super G at Val Gardena but has never won the downhill there. He's also getting a strong challenge from technical wizard Marcel Hirscher of Austria, who is seeking his fifth-consecutive World Cup overall Crystal Globe.
Meantime, Canadian Erik Guay has hovered around the top-10 throughout his early season comeback from knee surgery. Guay, the 2011 world downhill champion, has been on the podium three times at Val Gardena and won the event here in 2013.
Watch on Saturday 2 p.m. ET
Commentators: Scott Russell, Todd Brooker, 1984 Olympian and 1983 Kitzbuhel champion
Vonn Seeks Victory No. 72 at Val D' Isere
American superstar Lindsey Vonn is on fire.
This weekend she tries for World Cup victory No. 72 in the downhill at Val D'Isere, France. Vonn has won the last four races she's entered to start the season and is the most successful female racer in World Cup history.
After missing the Sochi Olympics with injury and honing her skills as a broadcaster for NBC, Vonn has taken aim at the all-time wins record of legendary Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark, who retired with 86 victories to his credit.
Assuming Vonn might approach 2000 points or more this season, it is not inconceivable that Stenmark's record could be broken in the 2016 calendar year.
Larissa Yurkiw of Owen Sound, Ont., is the lone Canadian in the race and won the first training run. Yurkiw will be seeking her second career podium finish. She won silver at Cortina last season.
Watch highlights on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET
Commentators: Scott Russell, Todd Brooker
Rolex Grand Slam Show Jumping Geneva
The only indoor event of show jumping's most prestigious circuit invades the Palexpo in Geneva, Switzerland. Top prize is 500,000 Euros and this leg of the Rolex Grand Slam attracts the top talent in the sport.
Included is Scotland's Scott Brash, who – along with his mount Hello Sanctos – made history by winning the CP International in September at Spruce Meadows.The pair became the first horse/rider combination to capture three Grand Slam events in succession, and thus cash in on the richest day in the history of show jumping.
Also in the field is 2008 Olympic individual champion, Canada's Eric Lamaze, who won the gold medal on the late and legendary stallion Hickstead.
He'll be aboard the 12-year-old Hannoverian mare, Fine Lady 5. Lamaze is assured to be a key member of the Canadian show jumping effort at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics but has yet to confirm which horse he'll ride at the Games. The performance of Fine Lady 5 in Geneva could help sway his decision.
"She's feisty, like a female version of Hickstead," says CBC equestrian analyst Deanna Phelan. "She's small but has all kinds of energy and Lamaze might be earmarking her for Rio."
Also in the field is the prolific American duo of Kent Farrington and Voyeur as well as 2012 Olympic champion Steve Guerdat of Switzerland.
Watch on Saturday 3:30 p.m. ET
Commentators: Brenda Irving, Equestrian coach, Deanna Phelan
Alex Gough on home track in World Cup luge
Luge first appeared at the Olympics in 1964 at Innsbruck, Austria, and has been dominated by German athletes throughout its history.
The most accomplished Canadian in this sport is 28-year-old engineering student, Alex Gough of Calgary. This weekend she takes time away from her studies to race on her home track at Canada Olympic Park, site of the 1988 Olympic luge competitions.
Gough is a three-time Olympian who finished fourth in both the singles and team events at Sochi in 2014. But she is the winner of five world championship medals and broke up a German dynasty when she won a world cup race in Russia in 2011. That victory by Gough ended a 10-year streak which had seen German women claim 105 consecutive victories.
While Gough is competing on a part-time basis in order to complete her studies at the University of Calgary, she has already ascended the podium this season with a bronze medal finish at the historic track in Igls, Austria, the opening stop on the circuit.
Watch on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET
Commentators: Mark Connolly, two-time Olympian Jeff Christie