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After some positive results in North America, Canadian skiers looking forward to chasing World Cup podiums in Europe


With the first World Cup speed races completed Canada's Alpine ski team is hoping to get back on track as the season shifts to Europe.

The men's team were kept off the podium in races at Lake Louise, Alta., and Beaver Creek, Colo., but Alpine Canada president Max Gartner was encouraged by what he saw.

Erik Guay of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was sixth in the season-opening downhill race at Lake Louise while John Kucera, battling back after missing over two years with an injury, was 14th in the super-giant slalom.

Guay was top Canadian again in last weekend's downhill in Beaver Creek with a 15th while veteran Jan Hudec of Calgary was 10th in the super-G. Manuel Osborne-Paradis of Vancouver, who also missed most of last year with an injury, managed a couple top-30 finishes.

Both Guay, who won the downhill at the 2011 world championships, and Hudec, who was second in the 2007 worlds, were coming off knee surgery in the fall.

"We knew they weren't going to be peaking here," said Gartner.

Hudec said his knee remains day-to-day.

"I don't need to focus on anything past today," he said in a release. "It's important to me to be focused on just being in the start gate and knowing I'm going to try for the win or to be on the podium."

Gartner said Kucera is starting to show the form that made him the 2009 downhill world champion.

"We gave have to be patient with him but that was quite amazing," Gartner said about the 28-year-old from Calgary. "He needs a year to get back into the swing of things."

The next men's downhill will be at Val Gardena-Groeden, Italy, a hill where Canadians have traditionally done well.

"I feel pretty positive we will be having some top results," said Gartner.

Injuries and retirements have reduced the women's speed team to Larisa Yurkiw. The 24-year-old from Owen Sound, Ont., has returned to racing after tearing her left knee in December 2009.

After a couple of frustrating finishes in the first two downhill races at Lake Louise last weekend she battled to a 25th-place finish in Sunday's super-G.

"We know it's going to be tough in the short term in speed to have a competitive  team," said Gartner. "We are excited about the progress of Larisa.

"Certainly on the women's speed side there is going to have to be a little bit of patience."

The women's team strength is on the technical side where Erin Mielzynski of Guelph, Ont., won a World Cup slalom last year. That made her the first Canadian woman since 1971 to stand on top of a slalom podium.

Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., also was third in a World Cup slalom last year.

"The next generation of our women skiers are more on the technical side," said Gartner. "We don't want to move them over to the speed side too soon."

Alpine Canada's goal is of five podium finishes this winter, which Gartner believes is obtainable.

"We have the horsepower to do it," he said. "I think we can get two on the women's side and we can get three or four on the men's side."

The big event on the skiing calendar is the Alpine World Ski Championships scheduled for Feb. 7-17 in Schladming, Austria. Canada's goal is two medals there

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