SPORTS

Erin Mielzynski leads Canada to surprise silver in alpine skiing team event

02/10/2015 06:45 EST | Updated 04/12/2015 05:59 EDT
VAIL, Colo. - Skiing as a team, instead of as an individual, doesn't come naturally for Alpine skiers. So pulling off a silver medal in the nations team event at the world championships brought a particular kind of satisfaction for Canada's young team.

Canada's Erin Mielzynski led three young skiers with little experience to the silver, with the underdogs narrowly losing the gold to defending world champions Austria by just .11 seconds. Sweden earned bronze by beating Switzerland.

"Most of our lives we train as individuals, travel as a team," said Mielzynski, a slalom specialist from Brampton, Ont. "The team event brings individuals together, you're cheering for a common goal.

"Six Canadians on the podium, that's a dream come true for me."

Mielzynski, Candace Crawford, Phil Brown and Trevor Philp led the Canadian charge. Marie-Pier Prefontaine and Erik Read were also on the maximum six-skier roster but did not race.

Tuesday's event — run in brackets with two competitors racing the slalom course side-by-side — is the only alpine discipline in which skiers race as a team and not as individuals. It was run for the first time at the 2005 worlds in Bormio and more recently at World Cup finals.

"Even if they say the team event isn't like the individual races, I still think that nations coming together should be highly recognized," said 20-year-old Crawford, the youngest and most inexperienced of the four, who took a medal in her first career world championship race.

The medal helped make up for the 2013 worlds in Schladming, Austria, where Canada finished an aggravating fourth, just edged by Germany.

With their stunning and promising performances, it comes as no surprise that the Canadians are firmly behind the International Ski Federation's campaign to get the discipline included as a medal event in the Olympics.

At the start of the worlds, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said he had been discussing the team event with FIS.

"You may have good news in the next couple of months," Bach said at a press conference, adding he hoped to finalize any decision before the IOC session in July.

"It's raw," said Mielzynski. "You're racing beside the other person next to you. You can see who wins right away. It's not the prettiest. It can get messy. You just throw it down for you, your team, your country.

"If we make it into the Olympics then that's a strong thing for Canada. The good thing is we see how strong our team is. We are underdogs but everyone performs."

Mielzynski — who took on the unofficial role of team captain and is oldest and most experienced of the four — skied first out of the gate in every round of the competition and remained unbeaten throughout.

She went first in the final against Austria, beating Eva-Maria Brem, the World Cup giant slalom winner in Aspen earlier this season. But the Canadians were unable to beat Marcel Hirscher, Michaela Kirchgasser and Christoph Noesig, losing the next three runs to settle for silver.

Rising stars on the giant slalom World Cup, Brown and Philp matured as the competition unfolded, scalping skiers with world rankings two times better than their own.

The Canadian silver was not the only surprise of these championships. Dustin Cook of Ottawa took the silver medal in men's Super-G last Thursday.

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