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Kitzbuehel: Guay steps up for Canadians with fifth-place showing

Kitzbuehel: Guay steps up for Canadians with fifth-place showing{mosimage}KITZBUEHEL, Austria – Erik Guay of Canada led for a while and finished fifth in his first race at Kitzbuehel, extending a tradition of dramatic Canadian performances at the world’s gnarliest downhill. The three other Canucks in the race – John Kucera, Francois Bourque and Manuel Osborne-Paradis – placed 39th, 40th and 42nd.

‘I saw both Frankie and Manny’ said Guay. ‘They came so close to crashing. I think it was a bad thing that I watch TV before I came out. Seeing those two guys almost crash, I thought, ugh, how gnarly is it going to be.’

Osborne skied up onto the net at the bottom of the Steilhang section. It was similar to the problem his fellow Canadian Brian Stemmle had in 1989, nearly dying after getting caught up in the netting. Stemmle eventually won a lawsuit against the Hahnenkamm organizers.

‘It wasn’t for money, or anything else’ he said this week in an interview. ‘It was for me to ensure the safety of a young Austrian athlete or a Canadian athlete. … I wanted to make the point that it needed to be as safe as possible regardless of the cost. I didn’t want to see another guy go through that pain.’

The Steilhang is one of the most difficult turns on the World Cup circuit. ‘The older guys, the stronger guys, can pull through those bumps’ said Osborne. ‘I just hit a bump and it threw me further down. It keeps basketballing and I just let it go down too far. The only thing I could do was ride the net.’

Guay was fine through there. He said it felt much wilder than it had ever looked on TV. According to the splits, he nailed the bottom in particular, but it didn’t feel good.

‘You’re going down, you can’t see much because your head’s bobbing’ he said. ‘You just try to pick a point farther on and arc across the hill toward it. You can’t see the gates. It’s really bumpy in there.’

The only time on the traverse that Guay could actually see where he was going was when the terrain and waves bounced him into the air. ‘You keep your arms forward and try to stay solid’ he said.

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