Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Looking forward to the zoom zoom

When I, as a 10-year-old, was staring at an opportunity to meet one of my sporting heroes I chickened out. I stared at him for some time from a distance, but I couldn't bring myself to go up and say hi. Many of my classmates likely stared through him, only vaguely aware that the guy sitting at the back of the gymnasium was world champion that appeared on the CBC almost every Saturday all winter.

Hockey players they knew, but this guy...

Sitting in that eastern Ontario elementary school I was likely the only one that had a poster of Steve Podborski on his wall. Why wouldn't I? He was the most skilled (with apologies to Ken Read) of the daredevil Crazy Canucks, the only Canadian man to ever win the World Cup. His 1982 downhill title remains the only by a Canuck.

But, the reason I idolized Podborski and his ilk was more complicated than just that they won. No, it was more that they liked to point themselves down steep hills and go really fast. Podborski's World Cup win was great, but his two wins at Kitzb├╝hel--the wacky fast and dangerous downhill that has always served as the unofficial world championship of ski racing. It takes some serious onions to go fast at Kitzb├╝hel--were really awesome.

But I digress. This purpose of this little nostalgic indulgence is to point out that the 2008-09 Canadian alpine team was announced yesterday. It's a team that seems to be peaking at the right time, with loads of hometown medals 16-months from now the goal.

For years, we Canadians were the crazy uncle George of the ski racing world. Fast, fun, inconsistent and N U T S. We were fun to be around, but we never were invited to the classy parties. Then Ken Read revamped the program, refocusing its efforts at producing all-around skiers. That's meant more medals, which is a good thing, but far less focus on the downhill.

We all have to grow up. So, no one is asking Alpine Canada to get its crazy back. But, as we head into the penultimate ski season prior to Vancouver my inner 10-year old has to hope that the next Podborski is out there. Winning the Super G is fine and all, but it just ain't as sexy as being the guy or gal that gets down that mountain faster than anyone else. Turning is for wimps.

It would also likely be profitable for Alpine Canada to produce a downhill champion. We may have evolved, but we are always going to be more attracted to the daredevil that flings his or herself 140 km/hour down a sheet of ice, than the guy or gal on the slalom course.

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