Skiers pay homage to Kelly VanderBeek at Canadian championships
Marie-Michele Gagnon, Jeffrey Frisch win super-G titles
Marie-Michèle Gagnon and Jeffrey Frisch won their respective super-G titles at the Canadian championships in Whistler, B.C., on Monday.
The biggest cheers, however, were saved for CBCSports.ca blogger Kelly VanderBeek, who was given a heartfelt sendoff by her teammates after retiring earlier this season.
The Kitchener, Ont., native took part in a ceremonial last run down the final pitch following the conclusion of the ladies’ race. VanderBeek, 30, was given a rousing reception as she skied towards her teammates, who played toy musical horns and other instruments, covered her with streamers and awarded her with her vey own plastic "Speed Queen," tiara.
"Now I’m officially retired. I never got to say goodbye to the girls and my teammates and, of course, it’s Mardi Gras-style and glitter," said an emotional VanderBeek. "I’m so lucky to be around my family, around coaches I’ve worked with my whole life, people from the association. It was really incredible. Thank you to everybody for the whole journey. It was an awesome ride.
"I skied the last pitch for a ceremonial last run and then turned around backwards over the finish line to sort of thank the mountain for my journey. Seeing everybody in the finish blew me away. I could hear the horns before I left the last pitch. I thought 'this sounds like Europe.'"
Gagnon, Yurkiw pay homage to VanderBeek
Gagnon, who placed second in Sunday’s downhill race to Larisa Yurkiw, turned the tables on the Owen Sound Ont., in the super-G event by winning in a time of one minute, 12.97 seconds. Yurkiw was second in 1:13.14, while Julia Roth earned both third place and the top junior award with a time of 1:14.28.
"Today was a good day for me," said Gagnon, of Lac-Etchemin, Que. "I’d like to dedicate [my win] to my amazing teammate and friend Kelly VanderBeek. She was a great inspiration for me. I remember watching her in the  Torino [Olympics]. I was like, ‘One day I want to be in the Olympics and do as well as her.’
"I’m happy I skied well. Generally I let the skis run and I had a good approach to it. I’m happy to be Canadian champion – that’s pretty awesome."
Yurkiw was also emotional after addressing the retirement of VanderBeek, a longtime teammate.
"She’s more than a teammate. I don’t know where to start," Yurkiw said. "I was a sponge when I made the team and she was the biggest giver. She taught me everything and was always waiting for me in inspection to teach me something I wouldn’t have thought of. We had so much fun. I knew I wouldn’t race with her this season but it’s hitting me now.
"My run was a little hairy but I never have any regrets with super-G when I put it on the line. When I have mistakes there are silly mistakes and then there are ones you make when you are risking. I’m fine with second. These girls are fast and they’re good skiers."
VanderBeek officially retired from ski racing earlier this year following a 12-year career. She made a courageous comeback from a knee injury suffered in 2009 but in January she announced at a special event at her home hill in Chicopee, On., that she was hanging up her race skis for good.
Frisch takes men's super-G title
On the men’s side, Frisch, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., won in a time of 1:10.36.
"It’s amazing – I’m so happy. I was pumped for this today," said Frisch, who has been racing on his own and is hoping to get back on the national team. "I’m super happy about this run – it was pretty solid. There were two little safe moves in the run where I could have pushed a little more but I’m happy. This is awesome.
"Thanks to all my sponsors and supporters. Without you guys I wouldn’t have been able to do this. It’s a little emotional but I’m very happy."
B.C. ski team racer Tyler Werry of Calgary, finished second in 1:10.87.
Osborne-Paradis, of Vancouver, B.C., has been the man to beat all week but he lost time up top and wasn’t able to close the gap lower down, but still took third place.
"There was a groove I couldn’t stay in but all in all it was fine," said Osborne-Paradis, who clocked a time of 1:10.95. "I was happy with the way I skied. It was hard to push the limit as much with the softer snow. A podium’s a podium. The guys get points — it’s good that they get points today."
With files from Alpine Canada