Road To The Olympic Games

Road to the Olympic Games: 4 things to watch this weekend

Here's what to look for on this weekend's Road to the Olympic Games shows, featuring action from across the globe in alpine skiing and bobsleigh.

Alpine skiing, bobsleigh action highlight shows

Clockwise from top, alpine skier Manuel Osbourne-Paradis, bobsleigh pilot Kaillie Humphries, and freestyle skier Robbie Andison will all be a part of this weekend's Road to the Olympic Games. (Getty Images/CBC Sports)

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

The classic Lauberhorn downhill at Wengen

Just as golf has its "majors," tennis has its "Grand Slam," and alpine skiing has its classic downhill races.

None fits the bill better than this weekend's event in the Bernese, Swiss Alps, which descends the magnificent mountain known as the Lauberhorn.

It is visually stunning, rich in history, and a test of skill which has few if any equals in the alpine world. Each year the downhill at Wengen signals the heart of the racing season on the World Cup.

The globe's best male skiers descend on Wengen, Switzerland, for World Cup downhill racing on Saturday. 0:30

"This is ski racing's equivalent of the ironman," says Crazy Canuck Ken Read, who won the race in 1980.  "There is no other downhill that's like this. It's not a 'ball buster,' but the unique features give it great character and you have to concentrate for an awfully long time."

Indeed, the track which winds down the mountain with the spectacular and iconic, pyramid-like peak of the Silberhorn as the backdrop, is by far the longest on the circuit requiring two minutes and thirty seconds of high-speed skiing.

It also traverses challenging sections known as the Russi Jump, the Kernan S, the Canadian Corner and the Austrian Hole, which have been named after accomplished skiers who found varying degrees of success and disaster throughout history.

This is not to mention the tight passage ways, chicane-type turns, and even a trip through a tunnel which is a prerequisite of getting to the grandstand – which is routinely stuffed with 30,000 bell-ringing Swiss ski fanatics.

"The Lauberhorn is tradition," Read reminisces. "You never stop looking around and saying to yourself that this is such a beautiful place.  But then you find yourself in the start hut and you have to remind yourself that you must focus on the task at hand."

The Lauberhorn races – which include slalom and combined events as well as the downhill – have been running annually since 1930, making them the longest standing ski races involved with the World Cup. Not even WWII interrupted their schedule. 

Canadians have been on the podium five times at the Lauberhorn, most recently Manuel Osborne-Paradis, who won silver in 2010.  2011 World downhill champion Erik Guay returns to racing at Wengen after taking two weeks off.

Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal, the current leader in the World Cup downhill standings has never won one of the classic races which include the Hahnenkamm at Kitzbuhel and the Kandahar downhill most commonly held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

Watch on Saturday at 5 p.m. ET

Commentators: Scott Russell, 1992 Olympic Downhill Champion Kerrin Lee-Gartner

Kripps in driver's seat in Utah

The World Cup bobsleigh circuit stays in North America but heads west this weekend to Park City, Utah, the site of the 2002 Olympic competitions.

Kaillie Humphries, two-time Olympic champion, will be busy and race three times in two days. She'll compete in the women's event but will also drive in consecutive races while piloting an all-female crew in the four-man category.

Humphries continues to lead the charge for gender equity in the sport with the hope of having a four-female classification included on the Olympic program for the 2022 Games in Beijing.

Meantime, Hawaiian-born Justin Kripps is strengthening his hold on the number No. 1  pilot position on the Canadian men's team. Kripps was third in Lake Placid last week, his first time on the four-man podium, and has also recorded the top Canadian results in the two-man event so far this season.

The Canadian foursome of Justin Kripps, Derek Plug, Ben Coakwell and Alexander Kopacz finished third on Saturday in 4-man bobsleigh at a world cup event in Lake Placid with a combined time of 1:50.07. 2:11

"All of us knew from the first time he started to drive after the 2010 Games that he was going to be good," reckons CBC Sports analyst Helen Upperton. "He had great awareness on the track and great feel for how the sled would react.

"He's cool as a cucumber and nothing really rattles him. He's good to his teammates and he really loves competition and racing."

A third Canadian sled in Park City will be driven by Australian native Chris Spring.

Watch Saturday at 4 p.m. ET

Commentators: Mark Connolly, 2010 Olympic silver medalist, Helen Upperton

Faces of Tomorrow: Freestyle skier Robbie Andison

Petro Canada is supporting the next generation of Canadian Olympians through their FACE (Fuelling Athlete and Coaching Excellence) program.

One of the grant recipients and the subject of this weekend's edition of "Faces of Tomorrow," is 18-year-old freestyle skier Robbie Andison of Oakville, Ont.

Andison was second at the Canadian championships last season in the dual mogul event, is heralded as the sport's next great talent, and was set to become the youngest member of the national team on this year's World Cup.

Petro-Canada Faces of Tomorrow Preview: Robbie Andison 0:42

But a severe training accident over the summer in Whistler, B.C. left Andison with a badly damaged right knee, requiring multiple surgeries and a myriad medical staff. 

The good news is that Andison is miraculously back on snow and the first tentative steps are underway as he works toward his inclusion on the 2018 Olympic team for South Korea.

"I love the adrenaline and I love how it's something new every day," the ever-optimistic Andison says of mogul skiing. "It's a little scary sometimes but it's such an amazing feeling."

Watch Saturday between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. ET

Getting a grip on governance at COC, IAAF

This week saw stinging indictments delivered on how two major sports organizations are run.

First, the Canadian Olympic Committee made public the third party report on conditions in their workplace in the wake of the resignation of Marcel Aubut as president following allegations of sexual harassment.

"We failed our employees and we are truly sorry," said newly elected COC president Tricia Smith. "We will accept and implement all recommendations of the report.  We must hold ourselves to a higher standard.  The goal here is institutional change and we will hold everyone's feet to the fire."

While Smith acknowledged the senior leadership of the organization could have done more to protect employees, she did not foreshadow further blood-letting at the top. Smith did, however, promise a full review of the COC's governance, the hiring of a senior human resources executive, and new reporting mechanisms to help protect future victims of sexual harassment and bullying in the workplace.

Meantime, the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) independent commission on the Russian doping scandal delivered the second part of its report in Munich, Germany on Thursday. 

The bulk of the findings pointed the finger at ex-IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) president, Lamine Diack, his alliance with a complicit Russian president Vladimir Putin, and an alleged cover-up of a multitude of Russian doping violations along with attempts to extort money from doped athletes.

"We believe this may be the tip of the iceberg with regard to extortion attempts," said commission member Richard McLaren.

In addition,the commission acknowledged that the inner circle of the IAAF was aware of the problem but did not have "an appetite" to challenge the Russians because an alternative governance structure had assumed too much control.

"Should an entire sport pay the price for this? That was not obvious to us," said commission head Dick Pound as he endorsed the leadership of the new IAAF president Sebastian Coe. 

"I could not think of anyone better than Lord Coe to lead the enormous reputational recovery which is now required at the IAAF."


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