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SOLDEU-GRANDVALIRA, AND (Feb. 11, 2012) – Marie-Michèle Gagnon rounded off a great day for the Canadian Alpine Ski Team Saturday with her best World Cup slalom result of the season, an eighth-place finish in Soldeu-Grandvalira, Andorra.
The 22-year-old from Lac-Etchemin, Que., followed up fellow young gun Ben Thomsen’s second place in the men’s downhill in Sochi, Russia, with a determined performance of her own on a tricky course.
Gagnon’s teammate Erin Mielzynski, of Guelph, Ont., was 18th Saturday, Elli Terwiel, of Sun Peaks, B.C., was 39th after the first run and did not qualify for the second run, while Anna Goodman, of Pointe-Claire, Que., did not finish her first run.
The ladies’ team had watched Thomsen’s incredible run on TV before their race and felt a surge of inspiration as he secured his first career World Cup podium.
“I watched Ben and I was totally pumped up,” said Gagnon, who crossed the line with a two-run combined time of one minute, 41 seconds. “I was like, ‘I’ve got to do something.’ His performance was pretty inspiring – it was a great result.”
Gagnon was seventh in her last World Cup race – a super combined in St. Moritz, Switzerland, but she had failed to finish her last two slaloms, in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, and Zagreb, Croatia.
“It was kind of like average. That’s where I’ve been a lot this year,” Gagnon said of sitting ninth after the first run. “But after the last two races, where I didn’t finish, it was hard in the second run to totally go for it. I didn’t want a (DNF).”
Hugues Ansermoz, head coach of the ladies’ team, said Gagnon’s result was a good confidence-booster and showed how close she is to a breakthrough result of her own.
“We are pretty happy,” Ansermoz said. “A podium is not that far for her if she attacks and takes chances. Today she was (not far) from the podium.”
Mielzynski clocked a two-run combined time of 1:42.91 to record her fourth top-20 World Cup result of the 2011-12 season. Her 18th-place finish came after she battled back from a huge mistake in the first run – when she almost came to a standstill as she slowed down to make a gate – and difficult conditions in the second run.
“She had a big mistake first run. I don’t think many people would have qualified after that,” Ansermoz said. “Second run there was a lot of wind when she went down. She had a good second run.”
Terwiel also made a mistake that cost her valuable time in the first run, but otherwise skied well, Ansermoz said. Goodman fell during her first run and did not finish. She was not hurt.
Austria’s Marlies Schild got some help from the elements – and lady luck – Saturday to record her sixth win in seven slaloms. She was fifth after the first run but watched first run leader Tanja Poutiainen, of Finland, blown off course by strong winds. Schild had a two-run combined time of 1:39.44. Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter was second (1:40.04), while Austria’s Kathrin Zettel was third (1:40.30). USA superstar Lindsey Vonn was among those who didn’t finish the first run.
Gagnon, who is ranked 17th in the world in slalom, says although she didn’t quite make it onto the podium Sunday, Thomsen has proven that it’s possible to get there.
“I was really inspired to see that. He had a hard beginning of the year and got better every race. Then it was just like Bam! Podium,” Gagnon said of Thomsen’s performance in Sochi. “It’s reachable for everyone.
“All the Canadian girls were in the lodge. We screamed so loud when he was second.”
FEB. 11, 2012 – AUDI FIS ALPINE SKI WORLD CUP – SOLDEU-GRANDVALIRA, AND – LADIES’ SLALOM
The women’s team gets right back at it Sunday with a World Cup giant slalom, also in Soldeu.
Watch it on TV: Ladies’ World Cup action from Soldeu will be featured on CBC at 2 p.m. local time on Sunday. Sportsnet is broadcasting the men’s downhill from Sochi Saturday at 5 p.m. ET on Sportsnet One (9 p.m. ET in the East and Ontario, in the West at 9 p.m. MT and in the Pacific region at 6 p.m. PT). For complete TV listings, visit www.alpinecanada.org/tv.
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