Manuel Osborne-Paradis – “Manny” to his teammates – has a reputation as the laidback surfer dude of the Canadian men’s alpine team.
But head coach Paul Kristofic of Toronto warns that while it’s an image that has some validity, people should not be fooled.
“He’s a very hard working racer contrary to what a lot of people might think,” Kristofic said in a telephone interview today. “They think he’s a party guy, but he’s a real race day racehorse. He knows how much races mean and come race day, he has a clear plan and flips the switch and just goes.”
He sure flipped that switch today in Kvitfjell, Norway, racing to his first ever World Cup downhill victory today on the challenging Olympiabakken downhill layout in Kvitfjell, Norway.
|Today's result is promising for another podium shot in Vancouver in 2010.|
Osborne-Paradis struggled at the top a bit in the technical sections, but put the hammer down where he usually excels in the gliding portions to win by an impressive 31/100ths of a second over Austrian ace Michael Walchofer and local favourite local favourite Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway (1:47.46).
“It feels great to finally be able to step on the top of the podium,” Osborne-Paradis told reporters in Kvitfjell. “I didn’t have the best top splits. It seems the middle was where I excelled the most.
“I love doing downhill. I love the whole aspect of downhill, from figuring out the course in training runs to competing.”
As Kristofic noted of Osborne-Paradis: “When it comes to the gliding sections, he can really sniff out speed.”
It was the first World Cup downhill win in nearly two seasons for the Canadian men’s team, the last coming in November 2007 when Jan Hudec captured the downhill at Lake Louise. But the Canadian men’s team got a huge boost last month when John Kucera of Calgary won the downhill title at the world championships in Val d’Isere, France.
The Canadians placed four skiers in the top 10 for the first time in two decades – Robbie Dixon, a fellow free spirit who shares digs with Osborne-Paradis in Calgary, had his best ever World Cup downhill result in fifth, while Kucera was seventh and Erik Guay was 10th.
The race was a makeup downhill for one cancelled earlier this season in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where the Canadian team – Osborne-Paradis in particular – looked really dialed in during training and seemed poised for a strong showing.
“That cancellation took the wind out of their sails, but when they were licking their lips from the time they heard it was announced the race would be here,” said Kristofic.
That means the Canadians get a chance to do it all over again today in the downhill originally scheduled for Kvitfjell.
Perhaps, the most encouraging thing for the Canadians is that the course in Kvitfjell has many similarities to the Olympic downhill in Whistler, where most of them were just training before coming to Norway.
“I think both Whistler and this course have some good gliding elements and a lot of moderately rolling terrain and some decent jumps as well that play well into our guys’ hands,” said Kristofic. “It’s also got hard snow but decent grip. the kind of snow our guys have known best since they were young skiers.”
Osborne-Paradis talked earlier this about the great influence his grandfather, Jim Osborne, had on his skiing. He was the one who instilled the love of the mountains and skiing in him on their frequent. Jim Osborne never missed any of his grandson's ski races, travelling all over British Columbia to cheer him on. He was easy to spot.
"He was always the loudest guy," said Osborne-Paradis. "He had this cheer that would deafen most people. It was so loud. And he didn't care who was watching or whatever. When I came down the hill, he would cheer so loud and just be thrilled.
"Lots of my friends' parents who I've grown up with, that's all they can remember, too, is how loud he cheered and how passionate he was about me racing and me being involved in skiing, which is the sport he loved the most."
Osborne-Paradis was third earlier this season in a downhill in Val Gardena, Italy, but for the most part has not enjoyed a stellar campaign after entering the season ranked fifth in the world in downhill.
He has four career World Cup downhill podiums entering this race, his best a second at Lake Louise in 2006.