Men's downhill ends in disappointment for Canada -

Men’s downhill ends in disappointment for Canada

Manuel Osborne-Paradis had been a favourite to medal in the event


The top Canadian skier, Manuel Osborne-Paradis, ended up with a disappointing 16th-place finish in the men’s downhill event this morning.

The 26-year-old Vancouver-native, whose grandfather James was a volunteer weekend doctor in the early days of Whistler and who grew up skiing Blackcomb, was a favourite to medal in the event, still perhaps the sexiest on offer at the Winter Olympics.

Instead, the middle of the podium went to Swiss skier Didier Defago, a surprise for gold, with silver and bronze going to Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway and American downhill bad boy Bode Miller, respectively.

Osborne-Paradis’s lackluster performance at at Whistler Creekside was emblematic of a dismal day for the Canadian alpine team overall. The introverted Quebecker Erik Guay, 28, emerged with the most accomplished run, finishing fifth. Alberta’s Jan Hudec, also 28, defied a history of knee operations to compete, placing 23rd. And Osborne-Paradis’s Calgary roommate, Robbie Dixon, stumbled and spilled mid-race, failing to finish——a terrible blow after impressive training runs for the 25 year old.

The event came after warm, wet weather postponed a number of training runs for both the men’s and women’s races, then scuttled the races.

Just last week, the arrival of bedbugs forced Osborne-Paradis to change the sheets of his bed. But in the weeks, months and even years heading into today’s race–perhaps spoiling his approach today–Osborne-Paradis was contending with a different sort of pest.

Reporters had long demanded that Osborne-Paradis show some evidence of the pressure that’s been put on him to generate a medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games. This morning he did.

What was the most common question put to him? “I guess how I’m going to deal with all the stress,” he told Maclean’s recently. “But that’s pretty easy. I just kind of deal with it.”

Then Manny, who listens to LA rappers Hollywood Undead and such 80s classics as Poison and Whitesnake before competing, laughs with a gooselike HA!!! adding: “I don’t how I’m going to deal with it.”

In the main Manny has dealt with the spectre of the looming Olympic spirit by treating it like any other race. “If I was going to do anything different then that would mean that I’m half-assing all the World Cup races,” he told Maclean’s. “Why would I do anything different? I’m going to do the exact same thing because it seems to be working.”

It didn’t today——during a scrum after his run, Osborne-Paradis admitted he had been pursuing the top spot, and not just the top 10 he normally aims at in World Cup races.

Indeed, Osborne-Paradis was coming off an impressive run of three World Cup wins in the last 11 months, on a circuit he may hold in higher regard than the flash of the Olympic Games. “It wouldn’t be the most important race of the year if it wasn’t in Canada, because I think Kitzbühel [the Austrian resort that hosts the annual World Cup races] would overrule it. So it’s [the Olympics’] the biggest race and it is not just any race, but at the same time if you treat it like it’s any different–you’re going to fail.

“Your job is not to get wrapped up in the Olympics, your job is to compete,” he adds. “The fans and stuff that pay for the tickets, they can get wrapped up in it”

Dixon, meanwhile had impressed during the training runs by coming in second fastest, behind Didier Cuche of Switzerland, who had been the gold-medal favourite.

Guay, who of late has suffered from back problems, had secured just one podium finish since 2007, when he followed up his World Cup win in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany with four other podium finishes. At 28, he’s a young father looking for the next turning point in his career.

And Czech-born Calgary skier Hudec, himself getting over a knee operation, is part of the team thanks in large part to some unlucky breaks.

Today’s four skiers represent much of what remains of the Canadian alpine team after a string of injuries, perhaps due to equipment and material innovations generated by Own the Podium’s Top Secret R&D program that pushes the limits of the anatomically possible. World downhill champion John Kucera broke his leg at Lake Louise, while Jean-Phillippe Roy and Francois Bourque are also MIA because of mangled knees.

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