Society

Rough ride for 'Canadian Cowboy'

'Give me a couple of hours and I'll be able to snap out of it,' Erik Guay says of disappointment

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It’s the little things that count, and whatever those little things are in a sport of micro-seconds, a dejected downhiller Erik Guay would rather not reveal them after a bad day for Canadians at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre in the mountains above Sochi. He’ll reserve that discussion for his coaches, who include his younger brother Stefan Guay, his confidant and technical guru. “I work with him day in and day out,” he says of his bro. “He knows it more than anyone. He knows my skiing. It’s there in free skiing, it’s there in training. It’s sometimes there on the way down the course and it’s not far away. A few adjustments and maybe a few more kilometres on the track and hopefully it will turn around.”

Guay finished 10th after starting in 21st position on a deteriorating course, 0.81 of a second behind Matthias Mayer of Austria, who won gold. Some days a top speed of 134.25 km/h just won’t do it for you. “It was a tough track to attack from the back and I wasn’t able to do it today,” he said.

Guay, 32, left the rest of the aging “Canadian Cowboy” contingent further down the trail. Ben Thomsen, by far the youngest at 26, finished 19th, Jan Hudec was 21st and Manuel Osborne-Paradis was 25th. It’s too early to say if this is the last roundup for some of the posse.

Certainly Guay isn’t talking retirement, he remains a potent threat on the World Cup circuit. In December he clocked his 21st career podium, becoming the most decorated Canadian World Cup alpine skier. That eclipsed the 20 podium appearances by former Crazy Canuck Steve Podborski, who is everywhere at these Games in his role as Canada’s Chef de Mission.

The Winter Games have been a heartbreak for Guay, who has won everything there is to win on the slopes, except for an Olympic medal. In Turin in 2006, he came fourth in the super-G, missing out on the podium by a tenth of a second. In Vancouver in 2010 he finished fifth in both the downhill and the super-G, missing the podium in the latter by an agonizing 0.03 seconds. It was, the best performance by Canada’s Alpine team in Whistler 2010, but a disappointment for the personable and competitive resident of resort rival Mont-Tremblant, Que., where the family is skiing royalty. His mother Ellen was a ski instructor, father Conrad was a ski coach, his two brothers, Kristian and Stefan, were both former national team members.

“Right now at this particular moment I’m a bit grumpy or sad, or whatever word you want to use to describe today’s run,” Erik said with a shrug. “I’m a veteran, I’ve been through this before. Give me a couple of hours and I’ll be able to snap out of it and refocus. I think I have a good chance in [Feb. 16] in the super-G.”