March 8, 2014, SOCHI, RUS. (ISN) – The Canadian para-alpine team is off to a red-hot start. Josh Dueck, of Kimberley, B.C. won silver and Mac Marcoux, of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., captured bronze in men’s downhill Saturday on the first day of competition at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Winter Games.
On the ten-year anniversary of the freestyle skiing accident that landed him in a wheelchair, sit-skier Dueck celebrated his second Paralympic silver medal, adding to his silver in slalom from the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
“This is fantastic,” Dueck said after the race. “I’m really about performance, and I took a fast line down the hill and took some chances and I got pretty lucky… I crossed the line and was thrilled. Second is awesome.”
Though a long wait in the start caused by course delays proved problematic for some racers, Dueck said the extra time helped him harness his energy, think about family at home in Canada, and prepare to “just absolutely send it.”
“It was more about letting all that go and just skiing,” said Dueck, who raced with a photograph of his daughter placed over his heart.
Dueck looked poised for gold, topping the leaderboard as racer after racer tried to match his fast line, but Japan’s Akira Kano edged past Dueck’s time of one minute, 24.19 for the win (1:23.80). Takeshi Suzuki, also of Japan, captured bronze (1:24.75).
Compared to his silver medal in Vancouver, Dueck credited much of Friday’s silver to a matured approach and also the sit-ski technology the Canadian team has invested in developing during the past four years.
“The equipment has been huge. We’ve invested a lot of energy in keeping this equipment competitive with the rest of the world, and maybe even a little better,” Dueck said. “I had the ability to trust in that, point it down the hill and have a good time.”
Sixteen-year-old Mac Marcoux, who races in the visually impaired category, overcame a last-minute change to his guide to become what is believed to be Canada’s youngest-ever Paralympic medallist in the alpine discipline. His regular guide and older brother, BJ Marcoux, 19, was sidelined due to a back injury and so Marcoux was instead guided by Robin Fémy of Mont-Tremblant, Que.
“It’s so surreal right now,” Marcoux said of earning bronze (1:23.02) in his first Paralympic Games. “This is the highlight of my career, by far. It’s so exciting. My brother BJ is still here cheering me on from the bottom, and when I crossed the finish line he was the first person I heard whistling from the stands. As soon as I came down I knew he was there, and it meant a lot.”
“When we went down that last pitch, I looked up and saw the sea of the crowd and heard the noise, and the feeling was unreal,” added Fémy. “Coming into this race not knowing what was going to happen and now being on the podium, I mean it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Spain’s Yon Santacana captured gold in the visually impaired category (1:21.76), while Miroslav Haraus of Slovakia earned silver (1:22.01).
Canada’s Kurt Oatway, of Calgary, Alta., and Caleb Brousseau, of Terrace, B.C., were fifth (1:25.46) and sixth (1:25.62), respectively, in the sit-ski category. Both athletes were making their Paralympic debut. Standing skiers Braydon Luscombe, from Duncan, B.C., and Kirk Schornstein, of Spruce Grove, Alta., also racing in their first Games, did not finish. There were no Canadian female athletes competing in the downhill.
Next up is Sunday’s men’s super-G, which will feature the same Canadian athletes who raced in Saturday’s downhill, in addition to Coquitlam, B.C.’s Matt Hallat.