The most daring members of the Canadian National Alpine Ski Team are taking the reins on the 2012-13 winter schedule. And this ain’t their first rodeo.
Dubbed the Canadian Cowboys for good reason, members of this intense, charismatic and laid-back group say they are ready to put it out on line again this winter.
“We all race the same style,” said 2011 breakout star Ben Thomsen, the youngest Cowboy at 25.
“We’re very easy going compared to some other teams. We like to joke around and have fun and a lot of people see that in us and respect the friendship that we have. It’s just our Canadian nature.”
Thomsen was joined by teammates Jan Hudec, the top Canadian on the alpine World Cup circuit last season, Erik Guay, 2011 world downhill champion, three-time World Cup winner Manuel Osborne-Paradis, 2009 world downhill champion John Kucera, world championship slalom medallist Mike Janyk and Sochi hopeful Larisa Yurkiw in Toronto to discuss the upcoming season and what makes their team stand out.
The Cowboys clearly understand the reward in taking big risks on the hill. But to do so, they need to be healthy.
“That’s the biggest goal for me,” said Hudec coming off the best year of his career and will be the No. 1 seed entering the first World Cup race Nov. 24 on home snow at Lake Louise, AB.
“It’s one of those things where I really have to take my health into consideration first and do everything I can to be physically fit and physically ready for the race season.”
For 28-year-old Kucera, this season is about looking to return to where he was in 2009 when he became a world champion before a string of injuries slowed him down in the past couple of years.
The native of Calgary adjusted his training regime to focus on lower body strength and reducing stress on his legs after an injury kept him from competition at the 2010 Winter Games.
“I’m going to try and be really focused on the process and making sure that every (race) counts,” he said. “I know if I can follow my plan, I will get the results that I want,” said Kucera.
“If I can get myself back to my previous level, the Olympic Games will be in the picture and I will be gunning for podiums every weekend.”
The Alpine Skiing events during the Olympic Games of 2014 will be held at the «Rosa Khutor» Alpine Center on the Aibga Ridge in Sochi and making it there is a long term goal for many athletes as they enter the last World Championship season ahead of the Winter Games.
Two-time Winter Olympian Janyk remembers the extraordinary support Canadians received in Vancouver and looks back fondly at the London Games and the excitement he felt across the nation to continue fuelling him toward Sochi.
“After going to two Olympics and watching the Games in London, I got totally inspired,” said Janyk. “I have a different focus and shift for Sochi as I go for my third Olympics. I want to accept the pride that comes with wearing the Canadian flag. I think it’s going to be a lot more fulfilling.”
With the opening of the season just around the corner, these Canadian Cowboys say they will be leaning on each other and are eager to share their national pride and support throughout the year and leading up to the road to Sochi 2014.
Canadians can attend World Cup races held at Lake Louise in Alberta:
November 21-23: Men’s downhill training
November 24: Men’s downhill
November 25: Men’s super-G
– George Fadel