And here is another chance for Erik Guay, Canada’s most decorated World Cup alpine skier, to add another piece to an amazing collection of accomplishments.
Guay has a Crystal Globe. He was once World Champion. Earlier this year, he jumped past Steve Podborski with a record 21st career World Cup podium.
And all the journalists, writers and statisticians flex their pointer fingers and type: Olympic medal.
They, (we), cannot be blamed. It’s natural in a sport with the Olympic Winter Games as its pinnacle to measure athletes by success beneath the rings. The Guay medal hypothesis is further fuelled by his Olympic résumé, which is impressively consistent, 4th on Turin’s super-G, and 5th in both the downhill and super-G at Vancouver 2010.
But skiing results are anything but repetitive. Guay will be as challenged as ever in Sochi.
After three training runs, the United State’s Bode Miller led the way twice. He’s been blazing, sometimes over half a second ahead of the field. World Cup downhill leader Aksel Lund Svindal has been steady. And Guay has been hovering in the top-10.
Downhill skiers are lauded for their combination of nerve and athleticism. Any sport you can explain with speed is glamorous. Erik Guay is fourth in overall World Cup downhill this season. The skiers ahead of him all have at least one victory. But they also have this; 4th, 25th and 15th as their worst finishes so far. Guay himself was 16th at Beaver Creek this year.
A race day has much vulnerability. Where a skier is placed in the order, what the snow conditions are like then. The wax. Delays. Weather. These aren’t excuses, they are realities. “There’s probably a thousand variables in ski racing, you have 100 boxes and you just have to check off as many as you can that are in your control,” says alpine veteran Jan Hudec, who will also race the downhill. Sometimes the fastest skier doesn’t win. It’s good to be lucky. Or smart.
Erik Guay can be, and has been, all of those things. When he is healthy he is a threat. And he is skiing well this season. Summer surgery didn’t seem to do anything but motivate him. He was 8th at Lake Louise, and really performed over two December weeks in Italy where he won in Val Gardena and then came 3rd in Bormio.
After training Saturday, he commented on what he needs for success, “”My skiing has to be fun, fluid and easy – skiing the whole way like it was at the start of the season. I need to find this feeling again to be fast tomorrow,” said Guay.
It’s not wrong to discuss an Olympic medal. Guay would be the first to say it is on his mind. But if many great performances in the past add up to magnify today’s event, the result, medal or none, should not diminish that sum.
WHAT: Men’s downhill
WHEN: Sunday, February 9th at 2:00 am ET