CALGARY – Para alpine skiers Mac Marcoux and Alexis Guimond are heading into the 2018-19 season with different concerns but the same goal: to win.
That’s the way it’s done on Canada’s Para alpine team, which marched 10 times to the podium at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games this past March. Last year’s preparations to PyeongChang were so intense that the usual summer training this year was reduced from boiling to simmering so aching muscles and frayed nerves could be rested.
‘’We took the pedal off the gas somewhat this summer so everyone could get a proper rest and get fired up once again for this season,’’ said Canada’s Para alpine head coach Jean-Sébastien Labrie, the mastermind behind the country’s overwhelming success in the sport at the past three Paralympic Winter Games.
‘’We feel that’s the best way to carry the momentum from last season into the 2019 World Championships and the World Cups.’’
Despite retirements to key athletes Erin Latimer and Kirk Schornstein, both strong team leaders on and off the hills, Canada is once again expected to sparkle on the slopes this winter.
For the early season all eyes will be on Marcoux and his new guide Tristan Rodgers of Ottawa. Marcoux’s former guide
Jack Leitch retired after their downhill gold and giant slalom bronze at the Paralympics. They also collected four world titles in five races at the 2017 worlds.
‘’We feel very fortunate to have a skier of Tristan’s calibre,’’ said Labrie. ‘’He doesn’t have much experience at the international level but his work ethic and communication skills with Mac on the courses have been phenomenal. They have gelled quickly as a team.’’
Marcoux, from Sault Ste Marie, Ont., enjoys the new challenge
“It’s a fresh, new way of coming into the season,’’ said Marcoux, 21, legally blind since 2007 due to Stargardt’s disease. It’s a good feeling to have now and then. Every time you switch a guide you have to learn something different. It keeps things exciting, keeps the motivation alive.”
At 19, Guimond’s career is just beginning. Still, the Gatineau resident already has a bronze from both the Paralympic Games and world championships in his pocket. He wants to add to the collection this winter.
‘’I’m aiming for some titles at the worlds,’’ said Guimond, whose key events are the standing giant slalom, downhill, and super G. A Crystal Globe (as an overall World Cup champion) would also be a nice addition.
‘’My fitness is better and my mental approach has improved and I have better tactics in races,’’ added Guimond, who has hemiparesis, which affects the right side of his body.
Labrie certainly doesn’t think his young protégé is too ambitious.
‘’We’re excited to see what Alexis can accomplish this year,’’ said Labrie. ‘’He learned a lot at the Games and he is becoming a much more mature skier.’’
The star power doesn’t stop there for the Canadian team.
There is Mollie Jepsen, named best female athlete at the 2018 Canadian Paralympic Sport Awards, who won four medals in her Games debut in PyeongChang with gold in the super combined, silver in the slalom and bronze in the downhill and giant slalom.
Additionally, sit skier Kurt Oatway, the super G Paralympic champion, and double bronze medallist at the Games Alana Ramsay will be looking for more podium finishes. Young veteran Braydon Luscombe rounds out a powerful squad.
There are seven stops on the World Cup Para alpine circuit this season. Canada will skip the two stops in February following the world championships which are January 21 to February 1 in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia and Sella Nevea, Italy.
Here is the 2018-19 schedule for Canada:
December 17-22: World Cup in Sella Nevea, Italy (cancelled)
January 16-17: World Cup in Zagreb, Croatia
January 21 – February 1: World Championships in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia and Sella Nevea, Italy
February 3-4: World Cup in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia
February 7-10: World Cup in Veysonnaz, Switzerland
March 4-9: World Cup in Espot, Spain
March 11-15: World Cup in La Molina, Spain
March 18-21: World Cup Finals in Morzine, France