Beat Feuz of Switzerland won the season-opening men's World Cup downhill Saturday when the men's ski racing community also remembered one of their own.
As a tribute to French skier David Poisson, who died Nov. 13 in a training accident in Alberta, the men wore heart-shaped stickers with his initials on their helmets and their race bibs bore his name.
"I'm really happy to see that the whole ski family stood together and also that the French team participated today," Feuz said. "The stickers on the bib and the helmet is a beautiful gesture to remember David."
RCMP said Poisson died of his injuries after losing an edge and crashing through safety netting into a tree at Nakiska ski resort west of Calgary.
Poisson's death at age 35 cast a pall over the traditional season-opener in Lake Louise, Alta.
'That was gutsy, brave'
The French raced Saturday with their teammate's name across their chests.
"That was gutsy, brave, but an important decision not only for the French guys, but for all of us," Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal said.
"Them being so brave about it makes it easier for other teams. No one would have gained from us cancelling this race and going home."
Adrien Theaux posted the French team's best result in seventh and declined to be interviewed.
"It's definitely really emotional for the French, but we needed to get to ski racing," Canadian Manuel Osborne-Paradis said.
"It's just a shame and it's too bad that happened in our sport. It's happened before and we all know the risk."
Feuz is the reigning world downhill champion. He edged out Canada's Erik Guay for gold in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in February.
With a time of one minute 43.76 seconds Saturday, Feuz beat runner-up Matthias Mayer of Austria by less than a tenth of a second. Svindal was just over three-tenths behind Feuz in third.
"I've fallen twice in Lake Louise, but this is also the second time I've been on the podium." Feuz said. "With the Rocky Mountains and everything, it's a great place for me."
Italy's Peter Fill, winner of World Cup downhill titles the last two seasons, was .52 back of Feuz in fourth.
Vancouver's Osborne-Paradis was the top Canadian in 20th. A super-G race is scheduled for Sunday.
Guay withdrew from the downhill because of tightness in his back that worsened in training Friday when he posted the fifth-fastest time.
"One of the toughest decisions I've had to make," Guay wrote on Instagram.
The 36-year-old from Mont-Tremblant, Que., is Canada's most decorated alpine skier with a career 25 World Cup medals and another three at world championships.
Limited training run
Winner of super-G gold at the world championship, a decision was expected later Saturday or as late as Sunday morning as to whether he would race the discipline in Lake Louise.
The 2016 men's races were cancelled for the first time because temperatures were too warm to make snow.
Rain and warm temperatures over the week limited the men to one training run prior to this year's race. One was enough for Mayer.
"It is my fifth time here in Lake Louise. I know the slope. I know everything," the Austrian said. "For me, one run was OK. For the young guys, of course it was a little bit difficult."
Broderick Thompson of Whistler, B.C., was 23rd, Calgary Tyler Werry placed 34th, Ben Thomsen of Invermere, B.C., finished 41st and Toronto's Jack Crawford was 63rd in a field of 74 racers.