For Cameron Alexander, feeling strong and ready to launch from the start hut in the first World Cup downhill of the season is a novel sensation.
Knee injuries limited the 26-year-old ski racer from North Vancouver early in the last two seasons before he posted big results in the back half.
Alexander claimed world championship bronze in men’s downhill in Courcheval, France in February.
He became the first Canadian since 2014 to earn a World Cup downhill in March 2022 in Kvitfjell, Norway.
A catastrophic knee injury Dec. 13, 2020 in Val-d’Isere, France sidelined him for a year. Alexander reinjured in the spring of 2022 and managed pain heading into the world championship.
He’ll race downhills in Beaver Creek, Colo., for the first time since his rookie World Cup season.
The first of two on the Birds of Prey course is Friday, followed by Sunday’s super-G.
“Health-wise, my knee is the best it’s ever felt,” Alexander said. “It’s been nice having a full off-season, full pre-season under my belt coming into racing.
“I’m excited to see how I stack up in the first race of a World Cup season when I’m healthy and ready to go.”
Lake Louise, Alta., is no longer the traditional start of the international speed season for both men and women. The 2022 men’s and women’s World Cups in Banff National Park were the last.
The women’s speed races have been replaced by giant slaloms Saturday and Sunday in Mont-Tremblant, Que. Alpine Canada chief executive officer Therese Brisson says she’s searching for a men’s speed site in Western Canada.
The world governing body of skiing and snowboarding (FIS) has twice attempted to start the speed season earlier in November by scheduling Zermatt-Cervinia races that start in Switzerland and finish in Italy.
An intriguing idea has yet to produce a live race. Weather conditions forced the cancellation of the event a second consecutive year, so Beaver Creek is the men’s opener for 2023-24. The first of three training runs is Tuesday.
Alexander and reigning world super-G champion James (Jack) Crawford of Toronto lead a Canadian men’s downhill team of 20-somethings who have been pushing each other into the world’s elite.
Crawford, Calgary’s Jeff Read and Brodie Seger of North Vancouver rank in the world’s top 28 in super-G. Seger won’t race in Beaver Creek as he’s coming back from a knee injury sustained in France.
Crawford, 26, was a downhill medalist three times last season with two silver and a bronze. He placed third in Beaver Creek.
Broderick Thompson of Whistler, B.C. was a super-G bronze medalist in Beaver Creek two years ago. Kyle Alexander and Riley Seger join their older brothers on the Canadian team.
“We have some high-level super-G skiers in our group, but that’s a strength that’s just going to help us build our downhill,” Canadian team coach John Kucera stated.
“Some of those guys who are still not in the top 30 in downhill have had some really fast training runs, top-10 training runs, winning sections out there. When it comes to racing, it’s just about not trying to do too much, but trusting what you’re doing is going to work and putting it together on the days that matter most.
“We’re going to be just as strong in downhill as we are in super-G. We’re going to be a true multi-discipline speed team.”