Canada's Olympians: Manuel Osborne-Paradis, Alpine Skiing

He’s got home-hill advantage but will he flinch under pressure?

Forgive us, Manny, for pointing out all the pressure you’re facing. But facts are facts.

1) You’re peaking at exactly the right time. With so many of your alpine teammates sidelined by torn ligaments and broken bones, you’ve put together your best World Cup ski season yet, capturing two golds and a silver.

2) Home-hill advantage. Born in North Vancouver, you know Whistler’s twists and turns better than anyone, having cut your kiddie skis on the very same snow.

3) The record book looms. If you clock the fastest time in the men’s downhill event on day two of the
Games, you will be the first Canadian to win an Olympic gold medal in Canada. Yes, that’s right. Our athletes were shut out of the top prize in Montreal in 1976, and again in Calgary 12 years later. But you can change all that, Manny. You can redeem us.

Or blow it. One or the other.

Staring at such lofty expectations, it’s no wonder Manuel Osborne-Paradis has done his darndest to downplay his homecoming. Two years ago, when a journalist asked about his Olympic preparations, the self-proclaimed “clown prince” of alpine responded this way: “You don’t even plan a pregnancy two years in advance. It only takes nine months.” A few weeks back, another reporter asked him which prize he would rather have in his trophy case: an overall World Cup title, or an Olympic gold?
“The overall downhill title,” the 25-year-old said, without hesitation. “It’s a long season and that would mean I’d have a lot of great races. I would be more proud of myself by doing better in more races to win the overall than just doing [well in] one race.”

Maybe he’s being honest. Maybe Osborne-Paradis—a man who insists he’s “not totally nuts”—really does believe there is something greater than Olympic glory. Or maybe Canada’s best hope on the slopes is simply doing what he does best: letting everyone else ponder the weight on his shoulders while he worries about shouldering the turns. “I haven’t ever really met anyone who can flip the switch like him and turn into somebody else when it comes time to perform,” his coach, Paul Kristofic, once said. “He’s so focused, especially when he’s confident and knows he can do well. You can throw rocks at him and he’s not going to flinch.” Will he flinch under pressure? Tune in Feb. 13.

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