Canadian skiing great Erik Guay abruptly retires after teammate's violent crash

Erik Guay, one of Canada's most decorated alpine skiers, has decided to walk away from the sport effective immediately.

Manuel Osborne-Paradis’ injury affected Montreal skier’s decision to call it a career

Montreal native Erik Guay leaves the alpine world as one of Canada’s greatest skiers. (Francis Bompard/Getty Images)

Erik Guay, one of Canada's most decorated alpine skiers, has decided to walk away from the sport effective immediately.

Guay made the announcement on Thursday, hours before he was slated to compete at a World Cup event in Lake Louise, Alta. He's set to make his farewell run during Sunday's super-G. 

The 37-year-old Montreal native had already said this would be his last season, but admitted that Wednesday's violent crash by teammate Manuel Osborne-Paradis hastened his decision.

Alpine Canada says Osborne-Paradis is "doing well" after crashing during a training run. He was removed from the hill by a helicopter and won't compete this weekend.  

"Yeah, it did have an impact, absolutely," Guay told CBC Sports on Thursday.

"I was starting just a few numbers after Manny yesterday when I heard that he'd crashed and he needed to be airlifted. I knew something bad had happened, and I kind of put myself in his situation, and I was just thinking, 'Oh man, if that happened to me right now, I don't know if I have the energy to go through that rehab process again.' And so I think that kind of helped me get over that edge."

Guay says a high-risk sport like alpine skiing requires full mental and physical commitment.

"I wasn't having as much fun as I used to. Normally, I enjoy it so much when I go out skiing and when I'm in the start gate, and I enjoy that anxiety and that nervous feeling, and I wasn't getting that anymore. My head was back home rather than being on the hill, where it should be."

Erik Guay retires with no regrets:

Erik Guay retires with 'no regrets'

3 years ago
The Canadian world champion downhill and super-G skier discusses his decision to retire at Lake Louise, the site of his first World Cup podium performance in 2003. 4:48

Guay is married with four young children, and for him, the allure of taking part in international skiing competitions has lost its lustre.

"I just find it hard to be on the road," Guay says. "I find it hard to be away from [my family] all the time. And then it kind of tugs at my heartstrings every time I leave for more than a week."

Guay has four daughters, including four-year-old Leni, left, and two-year-old Marlo. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Decorated career

Throughout his career, Guay has been relatively healthy in a sport that demands taking maximum risks at maximum speeds.

Yes, he has had crashes, including a spectacular spill at a 2017 men's downhill World Cup event, which saw him catch an edge at 115 km/h.

And there have been injuries, such as the back injury that sidelined him for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

But more than anything, there have been accomplishments. Guay may not be a household name, but he has arguably done more on the mountain than any Canadian skier — ever. That includes famed Crazy Canuck members Steve Podborski and Ken Read.

World champion Erik Guay raced on the edge:

Erik Guay retires: 'it doesn't make any sense to risk it'

3 years ago
Canadian alpine skier Erik Guay abruptly announces his retirement before the World Cup event at Lake Louise. 1:45

The numbers are impressive. Guay's 25 World Cup podiums are the most ever by a Canadian alpine skier. Guay also has two world titles — the downhill in 2011 and the super-G last year.

"There's so much pulling our attention in so many different ways, so not everybody knows Erik's name," says CBC Sports ski analyst Kelly VanderBeek, who calls Guay "the Wayne Gretzky of skiing."

"I'm exceptionally saddened by [the news of his retirement], just because he is better than any other male skier we've ever had.

VanderBeek says Guay's high-level success over so many years is unparalleled. While other Canadian skiers have performed at a similar level, VanderBeek stresses Guay has done it more consistently and possesses the "X factor." 

Guay won a gold medal at the world championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 2017. (Gian Ehrenzeller/Associated Press)

No Olympic medal

The one thing Guay doesn't have is an Olympic medal. His best-ever Olympic result was a fourth-place finish in the super-G at the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy. He missed the podium by 1-10th of a second.

A lack of success on the world's biggest stage may have dimmed his potential star power, but it never seemed to bother him.

"A lot of times we show up at these Olympics and it's supposed to be the greatest event on Earth, but in reality, it's a little bit of a Mickey Mouse show," he said in a 2017 interview.

Erik Guay retires: 'it doesn't make any sense to risk it'

World champion Erik Guay raced on the edge

3 years ago
CBC Sports' Brenda Irving profiles the Canadian world champion downhill and super-G skier who announced his retirement on Thursday. 2:27

Heading into retirement, his opinion hasn't changed.

"I have so many great memories, and you know, I think I'm leaving the sport with really a positive vibe."

Guay was always about winning, whatever the race, and leaving everything out on the hill.

"I want to be competitive, but I'm also not here to waste my time. I don't want to finish 20th the whole year. I want to be on the podium," Guay says

But his legacy is about more than podiums or medals.

Erik Guay: 'When Manny crashed, I thought I should just take the lift down'

Erik Guay: 'When Manny crashed, I thought I should just take the lift down'

3 years ago
Canadian alpine skier Erik Guay walks reporters through his sudden decision to retire. 1:33

"For myself personally, I think it started, really, with the Crazy Canucks. I think [they] set the bar for Canadian ski racing. That was inspirational for me," Guay says.

"And I just hope that I can return the favour. I hope I inspired some young racers out there to be better, and to continue to pursue their goals of being in the World Cup, and winning the World Cup and representing our country all over the globe. And I think that's the legacy that I'd like to leave."


Jamie Strashin is a native Torontonian whose latest stop is the CBC Sports department. Before, he spent 15 years covering everything from city hall to courts and breaking news as a reporter for CBC News. He has also worked in Brandon, Man., and Calgary. Follow him on Twitter @StrashinCBC


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