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Alpine Canada's fast women get new speed coach

Alpine Canada continues to retool its coaching staff as it named Kurt Mayr as the new ladies alpine speed coach.

Alpine Canada continues to retool its coaching staff as it named Kurt Mayr as the new ladies alpine speed coach.

Mayr, 41, has worked with Austria’s national alpine team since 2002, where he helped turn Renate Goetschi into one of the best speed skiers in the world.

The new coach was born in Seewalchen am Attersee, Austria and said he’s looking for a new challenge. He’ll find that with the young Canadian speed team.

While the men’s program continues to find success, the Canadian Women’s program has struggled.

With Britt Janyk, Emily Brydon and Shona Rubens retirement and Kelly Vanderbeek’s injury, the women’s team doesn’t have a consistent podium threat and hasn’t managed to push a female speed athlete to the next level in some time.

The team is counting on Larisa Yurkiw to lead next year’s speed team, however she’s just coming back from an injury she suffered in 2009.

“This is a small group but that’s good for us,” Mayr said. “We have to train all the speed elements and we will see what happens then. We will begin with some GS (giant slalom) and super-G training. I’m here to watch the girls in training, see what they are doing and get to know them – find out what went well and what went wrong in the past few years. Then we will plan for the ski camps in Europe and New Zealand (later this summer).”

Mayr recently arrived in Calgary to meet with the small group, which will include Yurkiw, Madison Irwin, Marie-Pier Prefontaine, Vanderbeek and Marie-Michele Gagnon. Prefontaine and Gagnon are primarily technical skiers, but could earn more speed starts due to the dearth of athletes. In order to compensate for the small group, the Canadians will train alongside the Norwegian and Swedish teams this year.

After a poor showing last year, Canada could lose one of its speed spots on the World Cup circuit.

Hugues Ansermoz, head coach of the ladies’ alpine team, said Mayr brings a great deal of experience and insight to his young team and has the connections to make the partnership with Norway and Sweden a success.

“We were looking for someone who would fit well in the group and I’ve known Kurt for a long time,” said Ansermoz. “He has great experience. He’s worked with men and on the technical side, as well as women’s speed.”

Yurkiw faces a lot of pressure looking ahead to next season but is excited to ski under Mayr’s guidance.

“At one point I thought, ‘I’m going to have to come back and have to be a leader for the first time in my career.’ I’ve always been the rookie who everyone sends down first!” said Yurkiw. “After a year on the circuit you learn how to bring people around you to help you out.

“When I train speed I will be with the Norwegians and Swedish. I was really sad to hear that (Swedish star) Anja (Paerson) left. I told her not to retire but she did anyway! That’s kind of tough but at the same time, I’ve met the girls and it’s going to be really good.”

Before the rebuild, promising Bow Valley speed racers went elsewhere to pursue their racing careers. Tess Davies currently skis with Alberta Alpine, while Kelly McBroom has chosen the college route, skiing with her university team in Montana.

Mayr is the latest in a string of coaching hirings by Alpine Canada. Stefan Guay, brother of Erik Guay, was named to the team’s speed coaching group, while Banff’s Pete Bosinger took over head coaching duties with the men’s program earlier this spring.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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