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Skiing – Alpine

The Canadian Alpine Ski Team

In 1956, Lucile Wheeler took Canada’s first Olympic medal, and ever since the Canadian Alpine Ski Team athletes have proved their speed and strength.

Team Canada has won 10 Olympic and 91 Paralympic medals. Daring racing skills coupled with courage and excellent technique has earned these athletes such nicknames as the Crazy Canucks and the Canadian Cowboys.

Check out the Sochi 2014 Alpine Skiing Team

Looking ahead to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, there are high hopes that the Canadian Alpine Ski Team, led by two-time Olympian Erik Guay, will be back on the podium.  Guay, the Canadian record-holder with 21 World Cup podium finishes, will be joined by equal two-time Olympian Manuel Osborne-Paradis and Vancouver 2010 medallist Jan Hudec.

The women’s alpine skiing roster for Sochi 2014 consists of Marie-Michèle Gagnon, Brittany Phelan and Larisa Yurkiw.

Take a look at where Canada’s 2014 Alpine Skiing athletes call home

Alpine Skiing Rulebook

Alpine Skiing Rulebook

The concept behind ski racing is very simple: the fastest skier down the course is the winner. There is no head-to-head racing as each skier races against the clock, timed to the hundredth of a second (0.01). The route that skiers must follow is marked by a series of gates through which they must pass. There are currently 10 Olympic events, five each for men and women. The downhill and super-G are often referred to as speed events while the slalom and giant slalom are considered technical events. The super combined requires both speed and technical ability.

A Brief History of Alpine Skiing

Alpine skiing evolved from cross-country skiing, moving the sport from flat to sloped terrain. Norwegian Sondre Norheim is considered the father of modern skiing and is credited with inventing curved skis with stiff heel bindings that would allow for easier turns while maintaining speed on hills. Alpine skiing would gain popularity in the 19th century as it was introduced to more mountainous regions in Europe and North America.

Alpine skiing made its Olympic debut at Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936, making it the second sport at the Olympic Winter Games to include women (after figure skating). In its first Olympic appearance, alpine skiing featured just one event for each gender, the combined, which included both downhill and slalom. Separate downhill and slalom events began at St. Moritz in 1948.

A History of Canada’s Ski Heroes and Olympic Alpine Glory

Montréal’s Lucile Wheeler put the Canadian alpine ski team on the ski racing world map when she won Canada’s first Olympic alpine medal, a bronze in downhill at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Four years later, it was Anne Heggtvelt’s turn to ski for Olympic alpine gold and the Canadian team. She sealed the deal at the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley.

Nancy Greene won the World Cup overall title during the first alpine World Cup season in 1967. She repeated the feat the very next year as well as winning gold and silver in giant slalom and slalom at the Grenoble 1968 Olympic Games.

Alpine Ladies and the Crazy Canucks

As the only Canadian to win gold at the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Games, Kathy Kreiner took home the giant slalom alpine event and put Canada’s ski team again on the podium.

The 1970s became synonymous with Canada’s Crazy Canucks, Steve Podborski, Ken Read, and the two Dave’s (Irwin and Murray), whose daredevil ski racing style took the alpine circuit with a storm.

Podborski placed third at the 1980 Games in Lake Placid, grabbing the Canadian alpine ski team’s first Olympic medal in men’s downhill. He was also the first North American to do the honour.

The 1980s were incredibly successful for the Canadian Women’s alpine ski team. During a seven-year reign (1982-89), Gerry Sorensen, Karen Percy and Laurie Graham won five Olympic medals and world championship titles.

Banff-native Karen Percy won the first Canadian Olympic medal on home soil at the 1988 Calgary Winter Games, taking a bronze in downhill. Percy followed up the win by taking another bronze in Super-G.

Still, the Canadian downhill ski team was far from done stacking up Olympic alpine medals. Kerrin Lee-Gartner became the first Canadian to win Olympic downhill gold at the 1992 Albertville Games, and at the following Winter Olympics, in 1994 in Lillehammer, Edi Podivinsky took the downhill bronze.

Canadian Cowboys Bring the Alpine Ski Team to Sochi

With nine World Cup placements under his belt, technical whiz Thomas Grandi brought the Canadian men’s alpine ski team into the twentieth century.

The new generation of alpine racers became known as the Canadian Cowboys, and the ski team featured Jan Hudec, Eric Guay, Manuel Osborne-Parados, Michael Janyk, John Kucera and François Bourque. Between 2003 and 2010, all the cowboys won world championship titles or World Cup medals.

The three veterans, Guay, Hudec and Osborne-Parados, were recently selected to represent the Canadian Alpine Ski Team in Sochi.


Downhill - Men and Women

The downhill is the most glamorous of the alpine events because it involves the highest speeds and the biggest risks. It features the greatest vertical drop (up to 1100m for men and up to 800m for women) over which skiers can reach speeds up to 130 km/hr. Each downhill course is designed with flats, jumps, shallow dips and challenging turns, which are strategically placed to control racers’ speed. Results are determined by a single run during which skiers stay in an aerodynamic “tuck position” with their bent poles curving around the body.

Giant Slalom - Men and Women

Giant slalom takes place on a course with a vertical drop of 300m to 450m. Each skier does two runs, over different courses on the same hill, with the fastest cumulative time winning. There should be a combination of long, medium and short turns to navigate through the gates.

Slalom - Men and Women

The slalom is the shortest and most technical of the alpine events, requiring aggressiveness, quickness and agility. Despite having the lowest vertical drop, it includes the most gates of the alpine events. Each skier does two runs, over different courses on the same hill, with the fastest cumulative time winning. Because they take the most direct line possible, slalom skiers will often knock the poles forming the gates out of the way and therefore wear protective equipment such as shin pads, arm guards, padded gloves and face guards.

Super Combined - Men and Women

The combined event was previously composed of one run of downhill and two runs of slalom. But starting at Vancouver 2010, it was replaced by the super combined featuring one run of a shortened downhill and one run of slalom. The skier with the fastest cumulative time after the two runs is the winner.

Super-G - Men and Women

The super giant slalom (super-G for short) features long, sweeping high-speed turns. It has a slightly lower vertical drop than the downhill, but includes more gates requiring more technical skill. Skiers can still reach speeds of just under 100 km/hr during their single run.

Canadian Medallists







GoldAnne HeggtveitSquaw Valley 1960Ladies' Slalom -
GoldNancy GreeneGrenoble 1968Ladies' Giant Slalom -
GoldKathy KreinerInnsbruck 1976Ladies' Giant Slalom -
GoldKerrin Lee-GartnerAlbertville 1992Ladies' Downhill -
SilverNancy GreeneGrenoble 1968Ladies' Slalom -
BronzeLucille WheelerCortina d'Ampezzo 1956Ladies' Downhill -
BronzeSteve PodborskiLake Placid 1980Men's Downhill -
BronzeKaren PercyCalgary 1998Ladies' Downhill -
BronzeKaren PercyCalgary 1988Ladies' Super-G -
BronzeEdi PodivinskyLillehammer 1994Men's Downhill -
- - - - -
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