CALGARY, Canada — There’s something about the 2013-14 version of Manny Osborne-Paradis that suggests the three-time World Cup winner is not just back – he’s ready to dominate.
In the best shape of his life after launching himself into his summer strength and conditioning program, the 29-year-old is also skiing better technically and seems to be reveling in his role as one of the leaders of Canada’s speed team and a genuine medal hope for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games.
Osborne-Paradis, of Vancouver, B.C., has been around too long to read too much into a strong off-season or take anything for granted in the ultra-competitive world of ski racing, but he acknowledges there’s plenty to be positive about as he prepares to get his season started next month at the Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup in Alberta.
“My goal is to go into Lake Louise confident and ready to race,” said Osborne-Paradis, who left for Europe Saturday to spend a week training with the French team before joining his Canadian teammates for their next ski camp in Tignes, France. “There have been a lot of years where I haven’t been ready to race and surprised myself with good races or just had terrible results.”
“I’d like to go there with a really good race pace and not just be ready for Lake Louise but be ready for Beaver Creek, be ready for Val Gardena. You want your last run in training to tell you that you are confident that’s enough preparation and you’re ready to race. I’ve been in this sport too long not to be a contender. That’s the ultimate goal of everyone on our team.”
Osborne-Paradis enjoyed a superb comeback season in 2012-13 following a spell on the sidelines due to injury. Despite starting the season at the back of the pack due to his time away from the World Cup circuit, he battled his way into the top 30 in downhill and produced a couple of standout results, including a fourth-place finish in Kvitfjell, Norway. Now, with a full summer of training behind him, he’s looking to start strong and improve from race to race through to the Sochi Games.
“I’m looking for a progression of my abilities in skiing – really sitting down after every race and putting pen to paper on what I’ve learned and what mistakes are easy to fix,” Osborne-Paradis said. “The goal is to learn a lot about myself and skiing and the race courses and build for Sochi.”
“In 2010 I qualified with a win at Lake Louise and this year I want to peak at the Olympics. If I go out and win Lake Louise I’m not going to be disappointed about winning now and not later, I just maybe won’t write as many notes,” Osborne-Paradis added, with a laugh. “It’s more building as an athlete and a skier.” Osborne-Paradis, the team’s resident joker, is known for his larger-than-life personality and for his ability to keep things light in the often tense atmosphere of ski racing. But this summer, teammates and coaches alike have commented about how focused he seems in his on- and off-snow preparation for the season.
“From what I’ve seen in his approach he is very motivated and very focused,” said Martin Rufener, the new head coach of the Canadian men’s alpine team. “He’s working very hard on technique through his giant slalom training and making good steps forward in the right direction. You can just tell that his mental focus and mental strength is there and that’s important.”
“He still has that touch on snow that he had (before his injury). He also knows he has to keep working hard, every day, to make sure that what happens in training (translates) into racing. From what I’ve seen he can look forward very positively.” Osborne-Paradis said while he’s feeling fit and fast, part of the change his teammates and coaches have noticed could just be his maturation as an athlete and a person.
“I didn’t get to where I am by not being determined but I think I’ve openly shown people a little bit more of that side of me as I get older. I don’t have enough energy to have two sides of me!” he joked. “I’m definitely in the best shape of my career, for sure, as far as fitness goes. Skiing, I feel like I’m skiing a lot better technically than I ever have but it’s kind of give and take. Technically I’m getting a lot better at skiing, but then your gliding and feel on snow changes as you change setups and everything and I need to keep reeling that in and find the perfect balance of what’s fast all the way through the course. There’s plenty of time for that before the season starts.”
Osborne-Paradis was both hometown hero and medal contender going into the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, with the alpine races staged on the hill he grew up racing on in Whistler, B.C. Things didn’t work out quite as Osborne-Paradis envisaged, with a 17th-place finish in the men’s downhill, but he has no fears about being one of Canada’s best medal hopes going into the 2014 Games.
“I think they found a place (Sochi) that’s as far away from my hometown as possible for the Olympics!” Osborne-Paradis joked. “I’m excited to go there and ski because it’s an easy process, skiing.”
“Pressure is good. People watch when there’s pressure, people care when there’s pressure. The attention reels me in to pay a lot more attention to the details. I don’t get stressed about pressure – it’s either you win or you fail, there’s no in between. Even if you’re a favorite you have to just go out and compete and be in the moment. If it’s an outdoor sport and if the clouds separate at the right time and you get no wind and a good start number, good things can happen.”
With 2011 world downhill champion Erik Guay returning from knee surgery, Osborne-Paradis will be in the spotlight heading into the first World Cup speed races of the season at Lake Louise on Nov. 30. With his good friend Robbie Dixon, also of Whistler, progressing well on his return from a leg injury and a couple of younger Whistler racers – Morgan and Conrad Pridy – skiing well in training camps, Osborne-Paradis is excited to see what the B.C. boys can do this season.
“When we were (at a camp) in Portillo, Chile, there was only John (Kucera) and Jan (Hudec) who were from anywhere else,” Osborne-Paradis said of the B.C. connection. “The two Whistler boys, Morgan and Conrad, are skiing really well right now and there’s a lot of other B.C. kids coming up through the ranks. There’s Robbie, me, Ben Thomsen, the Pridy brothers…. Kudos to the B.C. program.”
Release courtesy of Alpine Canada
Photo credit: GEPA/Mario Kneisl