History repeats itself in Canada’s men’s downhill ski team – Canada News

LAKE LOUISE, Alta. – Canadians climbing the men’s downhill race ladder as a group and challenging European domination is a well-known script.

Canada is coming off a season in which three men reached the World Cup podium for the first time in their careers and James Crawford earned an Olympic medal.

The team’s culture has parallels to the recent “Canadian Cowboys” era, as well as the “Crazy Canucks” of the last century, in that fierce internal competition drives their performance and breakthrough results float the boats of others.

“You’re legitimately happy for your teammate and it gets you excited and makes you want to do the same,” Brodie Seger describes the team dynamic.

Ranging in age from 25 to 28, Crawford of Toronto, Cameron Alexander of North Vancouver, BC, Seger and Broderick Thompson of Whistler, BC, and Jeff Read of Calgary use each other as benchmarks to chase the personal bests that put them higher on the ranking and to the medals.

“I definitely think it comes from just a bunch of guys who are all pretty good friends off the hill, but also extremely competitive between each other,” Crawford explained. “We don’t often have that come between us, but I think it’s in a really healthy place now where we all eat off each other.”

The 2022-2023 men’s downhill season kicks off Friday in Lake Louise, Alta, followed by super-G races on Saturday and Sunday in the only Canadian stop on the World Cup alpine race circuit.

Reigning overall World Cup champion Marco Odermatt of Switzerland set the fastest time in Thursday’s final training session. Crawford was third.

Two-time World Champion Erik Guay led the Canadian Cowboys era from 2002 to 2020 as World Champion Downhiller John Kucera, Manuel Osborne-Paradis, Jan Hudec and Dustin Cook all stood on podiums at different times.

Steve Podborski, the first North American to win the men’s downhill World Cup in 1982, and Jeff Read’s father Ken, the first Canadian to win a men’s downhill in 1975, fueled the success of the Crazy Canucks.

Kucera coaches Canada’s current crop of downhill riders and sees parallels with his generation.

“Where the real parallel is, it’s a group, right?” Kucera said. “It’s not just one person. It’s not just one guy coming in or two guys. Once you see five or six of them hitting on a regular basis, that gets really cool.

“We were five or six people who came from different parts of the country. We were different ages. We all brought something to the table that was complementary to someone else. These guys are now different on that level because they’re essentially all “Grow up together. They’re very close. They’re almost like a group of brothers in a way.”

Seger and Crawford finishing fourth in super-G and alpine combined respectively at the 2021 World Championship in Cortina, Italy was an indicator of emerging talent.

Crawford followed up his Olympic bronze in alpine combined in February with a World Super-G silver the following month in Kvitfjell, Norway. He also placed fourth in downhill and sixth in super-G in Beijing.

“I personally found pretty good consistency with what I was doing,” Crawford said. “The rest of the team was a little less consistent, but they all skied to exactly the same or a higher level than me in terms of their actual ability.

“Going into the season it seems like everyone has their head in the right place. We’ve done a good job and I wouldn’t be surprised if all the other guys out there are competing with me day in and day out and not just with a strange result. “

Alexander, who will not be racing at Lake Louise, won a men’s downhill at Kvitfjell after losing almost two seasons to a knee injury. He recently wrote in an Instagram post that he suffered another knee injury at the end of last season during dry land training.

Thompson took third in a super-G at Beaver Creek, Colo., for his first world championship medal a year ago.

“That podium last year gave me confidence and I think it gave confidence to my teammates as well,” said Thompson. “If we all go as hard as we can, one of us will be on the podium for sure.”

Read got his first downhill top-10 in downhill in Kvitfjell. Seger finished in fourth place after the Olympic alpine combined downhill.

“I think our whole team is starting to show the top speed that is competitive, and I have no doubt there will be more podiums under this squad,” said Read.

“We are now in a place where we have enough time on all tracks and we are not newbies. We have the experience, we know where to push it to be fast.”

The nickname Crazy Canucks came from a European journalist, while the Canadian label Cowboys was a marketing initiative by Alpine Canada.

The Norwegians are known on the track as the “Attacking Vikings”.

This edition of the Canadian men’s downhill team has yet to decide on their unofficial title.

“It has to come organically,” Read said. “It’s not something you can really make up and force on others. I’m sure it will come as we all strive for the top.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 24, 2022.

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