FILE UNDER -- Alpine

TORINO: Alpine: Finlay Mickel goes from lawn child to downhill dreamer

TORINO: Alpine: Finlay Mickel goes from lawn child to downhill dreamer{mosimage}SESTRIERE, Italy – Finlay Mickel learned to ski on his front lawn.

On Sunday, Britain’s top alpine hope will trade in that hill outside his house in Scotland for the Olympic downhill course.

”As a young child I would go out in the garden — we have a few hills,” Mickel said Saturday.

Coincidentally, Italian great Albert Tomba also practiced skiing as a child on his front lawn.

”I didn’t know that,” Mickel said. ”You can do it on whatever snow you get. I’ve skied on plastic as well. There’s a big slope in Edinburgh, one of the biggest in Europe. It’s like bristles of a toothbrush. I used to train there every Thursday night.”

At 28, Mickel is still improving. This season has been his best so far.

He placed a career-best 10th last month in the downhill on the classic Lauberhorn course in Wengen, Switzerland, the longest on the World Cup circuit. That improved on his 11th-place finish in the downhill at last season’s World Championships in Bormio, Italy, and helped him clinch a spot in the World Cup Finals for the first time.

Mickel is hoping for another top-10 finish in his first Olympic race, but things didn’t go as planned in Saturday’s final training session. He finished 33rd.

”It’s a nice experience but I really wanted to bring out the best skiing and I thought I would do better than that today,” Mickel said. ”I’ve got good gliding ability but I’m not taking that speed off the steep (sections) here because there are some big, challenging turns. But it’s all about tomorrow.”

Britain has never won a medal in alpine skiing at the Olympics. Alain Baxter appeared to have changed the team’s fortunes when he finished third in the slalom at Salt Lake City four years ago, but he had his bronze medal stripped for doping.

Baxter and Mickel are both Scots and they grew up skiing together. Mickel missed the Salt Lake City Games with a broken leg and doesn’t feel like he has to make up for Baxter’s loss.

”That was his thing. He proved to us it can be done even if you’re not from an alpine country. That’s the main thing I take from that,” Mickel said.

Baxter is back for his third Olympics, but having failed to finish all seven World Cup slalom races he’s entered this season, he’s not the team leader anymore.

Along with women’s downhiller Chemmy Alcott, that role now belongs to Mickel.

”I’m having a great season. These are big things that are happening,” Mickel said.

What do you think?


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