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Thomas Grandi................for two!

TheRob

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Grandi wins giant slalom in Austria

Canadian Press

12/21/2004

Thomas Grandi credits a more relaxed approach to competition and work with a sport psychologist for his sudden success on skiing's World Cup circuit.

The skier from Canmore, Alta., who had been winless in 12 years of World Cup racing, won his second giant slalom in three days in Flachau, Austria, on Tuesday.

He did it while still on a high from a win Sunday in Alta Badia, Italy, that was the first in the discipline by a Canadian male in the 38 years the world's top circuit has existed.

"That was the icing on the cake - my Christmas and birthday presents in one," Grandi, who turns 32 this Monday, said as he cooled off after his latest win.

He had the reputation for years as one of the best technical skiers in the world.

All he needed to do was alter his technique, to be more loose and relaxed in competition, and it appears that mission has been accomplished. Working with team psychologist Terry Orlick of Ottawa since September "really has made a difference," Grandi said during a conference call.

The Alta Badia triumph was highly emotional because it occurred near Bolzano where he was born. He kissed the hard-packed snow on the course after getting his medal.

"I waited so long for that," Grandi said of his first World Cup win. "This time (on Tuesday) I experienced what it is like to be on a roll.

"It didn't seem that difficult. Things just fell into place. You grit your teeth, usually, to get down there as fast as you can but (Tuesday) I was relaxed."

Grandi's two-run time of two minutes 15.90 seconds was 15-100ths of a second faster than Switzerland's Didier Cuche. American Bode Miller was third.

"I had a great first run," said Grandi. "Before the second run, I was nervous but at the same time I had a relaxed, confident feeling.

"I kept telling myself, `Keep on charging.' The last 10 gates, I put the pedals to the metal."

The best previous Word Cup results for the five-foot-10, 185-pound Albertan were a second in a slalom in Kitzbuehel last season and a third in a giant slalom in Park City, Utah, in 1997-98.

He will race in Flachau again Wednesday in a slalom.

"I'm going to go for it the way I did the last couple of days and see what happens," he said.

He flies to Calgary on Thursday. He and his wife will spend Christmas in Canmore, and she's organizing a birthday bash for Canada's newest sports celebrity. He'll squeeze in some training at Invermere and Panorama before returning to the World Cup circuit in Europe in early January. He hopes he'll still be on a roll.

"I've watched so many guys do that and thought, `Man, it would be great to do that."'

Now he knows how it feels, and he likes the feeling.

The Alta Badia win was the first for a Canadian in men's World Cup racing in any discipline in 10 years.

"It's really exciting for me to be able to showcase the sport, and especially the technical events," said Grandi. "It's great to show people how exciting it is and to gather a following of people who want to see it, and to show everybody that we're still a force to be reckoned with on the international scene."

After some bleak years, Alpine Canada athletes are gaining momentum. Others have also been posting good results, too. But Grandi's are attracting the spotlight.

"I hope this creates an excitement in ski racing that has been missing for years," he said.

It takes a long time to build a successful ski team - the right people in the right supervisory positions, enough finances . . .

"It doesn't happen overnight," said Grandi. "(The double triumph) is just the tip of the iceberg."

When he was only two, the Grandi family moved to Banff, Alta., after an Australian immigration application was rejected. He began skiing at age nine in the Nancy Greene program and is an 11-time Canadian champion.

There were those who tried at times to convince him he should compete for Italy, where top skiers get more lucrative support than in Canada.

"I'm stubborn," he said. "I wanted to make it as a Canadian.

"I felt it would be selling out to ski for Italy, and I was motivated to be the first (on Canada's team) to have success in the technical events."

He wrote in a journal before the season began that his goal would be to win four races, and one was Alta Badia.

"I was fit," he explained. "All the signs were pointing in the right direction."

So, two down and two to go.

Grandi's Olympic experiences have been mixed. He was 14th in the giant slalom and 16th in the slalom in 1994, and he failed to finish his races in 1998.

He missed almost the entire 1999-2000 season with a back injury.

At the 2002 Olympics, he was 12th in the giant slalom, 17th in the slalom and he did not finish the super giant slalom. He planned to retire after Salt Lake City but he had such a good season that he decided to continue.

In 2003-2004, he posted nine top-15 results, finished 10th in slalom and 13th in giant slalom in World Cup standings, and he returned to the podium for the first time in seven years.

His success earned him the keys to a new vehicle for a team sponsor, General Motors, for one year. He chose a 2004 GMC Canyon.

Prior to the start of the 2004-2005 season, he was awarded the John Semmelink Memorial Award, which is presented annually by the various snow sports federations to the athlete who, through sportsmanship, conduct and ability, best represents Canada in international competition.

Grandi began this season with a strong seventh in a World Cup giant slalom in Solden, Austria.

The Turin Winter Games are only 14 months away.

"I'm aiming for Turin," said Grandi. "That could be the end of my career."

The back-to-back wins mean he's again won a new vehicle for a year. He says he'll stick with the same model - but a new one - so he can access the back roads around Canmore.
I watch skiing when I flick past it. I always watch the Canadians plug down the hill and finish two to three seconds behind the Austrians and the Swiss. This is certainly a nice change. Good for him and hopefully good for skiing in Canada.

Didn't Grandi vacation in the lower mainland for a couple of weeks one time? I'm sure he did. Let's claim him as a local. Local boy does good! Yeah!!!!
 

TheRob

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Grandi returns home to cheers

Canadian Press

12/23/2004

CALGARY (CP) - A cacophony of cow bells greeted Thomas Grandi Thursday evening as he returned home to Calgary after winning two World Cup giant slalom races.

"It's totally overwhelming. It's more than I could have expected," Grandi said after receiving a kiss from his wife Sara Renner and being greeted by about 300 cheering fans at Calgary International Airport.

Grandi walked through the gate carrying his trophies after striking gold twice in three days.

The skier from Canmore, Alta., breezed to victory in a giant slalom race Tuesday, the win coming on the heels of Sunday's history-making gold in Alta Badia, Italy.

"I'm really going to enjoy this. I'm going to soak it in because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity," he said.

The win in Italy was the first in the discipline by a Canadian male in the 38-year history of the World Cup circuit, and afterward Grandi knelt down and kissed the hard-packed snow.

"It's been my dream for a long, long time. A lot of the press said why not move to Italy and do it there. I wanted to do it my way and I wanted to do it for Canada," said Grandi, 32, who was born in Italy.

Grandi had been skiing for 12 long years and wasn't surprised that his breakthrough came now.

"I've always been a late bloomer and I chose to do things a little bit differently than the norm in Canada," he said. "When I came up it was more about downhill skiing but I chose to be a Giant Slalom skiier so I had to pave the path, so to speak, for myself."

Grandi gave full credit to technical coach Dusan Grasic and added his performance improved dramatically over the past two years.

"Last season and this season are my best seasons ever and earlier this year, I think I was 13th, and he said I could be 13th going down on my skiboots and that I should be winning," said Grandi.

"Thomas is a leader and a hard working guy for the last 12 years," said Grasic.

"He brought the team together and if it weren't for Thomas we wouldn't have a team."

No one was prouder of Grandi's accomplishments than his wife Sara, a Canadian cross-country skier.

"Ever since he turned 30 - I think that's when you reach your prime and he seems to be on fire," said Renner.

"He's really special and he's a world cup champion now but I think he'll always stay the same and I think that's what's so special about Thomas."

And in Grandi's hometown of Canmore, Alta., a parade will be held Friday to honour the veteran Canadian skier.

"I found it quite funny when I heard there's a parade," he chuckled. "What kind of parade has one person in it. It's going to be a pretty short parade."
In a Canada without hockey, it's a little hard to find heros. Well done Mr. Grandi. Well done.
 

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