Injuries trouble Canadian skiers
Guay is out for this weekend while VanderBeek will miss the rest of the season
There was more bad news on the injury front for Canada's alpine ski team Monday.
A sore back will force Erik Guay to miss this weekend's men's downhill in Wengen, Switzerland, while women's veteran Kelly VanderBeek is out for the season after needing more knee surgery.
"Going in for surgery any moment now," VanderBeek said in an email to The Canadian Press on Monday. "Wish me luck!"
VanderBeek's damaged knee prevented her from competing at last year's Vancouver Olympics.
Guay's back problems come at a time when the Canadian ski team is struggling for results and less than a month before the world championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
The team has also battled other injuries. Francois Bourque (knee), Louis-Pierre Helie (concussion, knee) and Kelly McBroom (broken ankle) have all been sidelined. Robbie Dixon of Whistler, B.C., suffered a mild concussion in a fall at Bormio but is expected to race this weekend.
Guay, who has battled back issues in the past, first felt pain in Val Gardena, Italy, where he was third in a super-giant slalom race in December. He skipped a downhill in Bormio, Italy.
Patrick Riml, Alpine Canada's athletic director, said by resting Guay it's hoped the Mont-Tremblant, Que., native will be ready to race Kitzbuehel, Austria, in two weeks.
Wengen and Kitzbuehel are two of the most prestigious and famous races on the men's World Cup circuit.
"We have to do the right thing," Riml said in a telephone interview from Solden, Austria. "There are important races coming up.
"If you push it too much, or he goes back on snow too early, we don't want to jeopardize the rest of January, especially with the world championships. We are just making sure we are doing the right thing and getting him to the point he is pain free and strong."
VanderBeek first tore up her knee in December 2009 in downhill training at Val d'Isere, France. She returned to snow in late November but the knee wasn't responding properly.
"The knee was not progressing the way we all were hoping," said Riml. "They have to tighten her knee.
"There is too much shifting going on right now. There is no chance for her to be coming back in the 2010-2011 season."
On a positive note, John Kucera, who missed all last year with a broken leg, will begin training with the men's team in Europe this week. He hopes to be a forerunner at a women's downhill and super-G in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, later this month.
"It's good to be back in that environment, raise that competitive level and start pushing the line a little bit and get ready for racing," said the Calgary native, who won the downhill race at the 2009 world championships.
Kucera attended a news conference in Calgary Monday where the men's ski team announced they'll wear "Support Our Troops" yellow-ribbon decals on their helmets.
If training goes well, Kucera could return for the downhill at Kvitfjell, Norway, in March.
"The whole goal is to come back in a position where I can have the best shot possible to regain top from and get going right away, instead of struggling through it," he said.
Canada's ski team has gotten off to a slow start this season. Canadian skiers had eight podium results last year, including four victories. Guay won the Crystal Globe as the overall super-G champion.
Guay's third is the best finish so far.
"We were definitely expecting a little more," said Riml. "In general, the guys are skiing well. I think it's just a matter of time."
By this time last year Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Invermere, B.C., had won a super-G race in Lake Louise and the downhill in Val Gardena. He finished second in Wengen.
This year Osborne-Paradis has made the top-10 just once.
"When you look at the splits from all the races he's shown some incredible speeds every weekend in different sections," said Riml. "It's just a matter of time before he puts one together from top to bottom."
There have been some encouraging results and near misses from other team members.
Mike Janyk of Whistler finished fifth in a slalom race in Adelboden, Switzerland, over the weekend while his older sister Britt was ninth in a super-G at Zauchensee, Austria.
Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., had a career-best fifth in a giant slalom at St. Moritz, Switzerland, earlier this year while Julien Cousineau of Lachute, Que., had three, top-six finishes in slalom races.
Max Gartner, Alpine Canada's president, said plenty of races remain.
"We want to win and that's the business we're in, to be at the top of the podium," Gartner said. "I wouldn't say we're out of it. We're in touch and hopefully we can come up with a couple of big finishes in the next six weeks."