Gagnon Picks up First Alpine Podium with Bronze

ARE, SWE (MARCH 10, 2012) –Marie-Michèle Gagnon realized a ski-racing dream on Saturday by grabbing her first career World Cup podium with a third-place finish in slalom in Are, Sweden. Gagnon’s podium follows a historic result for the ladies’ Canadian technical team after Erin Mielzynski, of Guelph, Ont., won last week’s slalom in Ofterschwang, Germany – the first Canadian World Cup victory in ladies’ slalom since 1971.

Gagnon, of Lac-Etchemin, Que., was fifth in Ofterschwang, tying her previous best result in World Cup slalom, and was ready to make her move onto the podium Saturday. “Finally,” said Gagnon, 22. “I’ve been wanting a podium, its been a goal for the whole season and I’m so happy it’s finally here and having Erin break the ice last weekend, it really shows you can do it from anywhere and there’s no pattern you have to get through to win and you can do it any day.”

After Saturday’s race Gagnon is ranked 10th in the world in slalom. “We are really happy, it’s a great result for Mitch (Gagnon). It’s a great result for the team,” said ladies’ team head coach Hugues Ansermoz. “In one week two girls (on the podium). I think everybody is really, really happy.

Gagnon crossed the finish line in a two-run combined time of one minute, 49.96 seconds, just over a tenth of a second back of Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch who won the slalom in 1:49.85. Veronika Zuzulova, of Slovakia, was second (1:49.86).

“I had that feeling, ‘It’s going to be Are, my first podium is going to be in Are,’” said Gagnon. “I always like the snow here, I always like the place. Now I’m pretty confident in my slalom having placed fifth in Ofterschwang , just so close to the win and it feels like I’m getting closer and closer to winning. It’s pretty nice.”

Gagnon’s coaches also had a good feeling about Saturday’s slalom. “The coaches Tim (Gfeller) and Jim (Pollock) called it. They both told me, ‘Mitch is going to be on the podium in Are, she is so ready after Ofterschwang,’” recounted Ansermoz. Gagnon was tied for fourth after the first run and made a mistake in the second run but recovered in a fashion that made her coach proud. “She made a mistake, she recovered and she attacked so hard after that, so everything together it’s excellent,” said Ansermoz.

Mielzynski didn’t fare as well as last weekend. She straddled a gate and did not finish the first run, but was happy with her performance. Mielzynski is currently ranked 15th in the world in slalom. “We are so happy for Mitch. She deserves a podium and she’s worked so hard for this and it was great to see her rejoice in the finish when she knew right away that she would be on the podium.”

Anna Goodman, of Pointe-Claire, Que., was the only other Canadian competing in Saturday’s slalom but did not qualify for the second run, finishing tied for 36th in the first run. Goodman was ranked 30th in slalom going into Saturday’s race and needed a strong finish to make it into the top 25 to qualify for World Cup finals. She was ranked 33rd after Saturday’s slalom.

The World Cup finals, which will be held from March 14 to 18 in Schladming, will feature men’s and ladies’ downhill, super-G, slalom and giant slalom races, as well as a team event.