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Yurkiw says she's been dropped from Canadian ski team

The Canadian Press

4/24/2013 4:55:50 PM

CALGARY -- Downhill skier Larisa Yurkiw says she's been dropped from the Canadian ski team.

The 25-year-old from Owen Sound, Ont., can still envision herself in the start hut at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

What she can't see is how she's going to get there.

"I want more than anything to represent Canada at the Sochi Olympics," Yurkiw told The Canadian Press from her hometown.

"Things just got a little more complicated for me for sure. It's important to me to be classy at a time like this, but this all is cutting me deeper than I think I even know."

Alpine Canada president Max Gartner wouldn't confirm Wednesday that Yurkiw was been dropped from the squad, although she says she was informed of it earlier this month.

Yurkiw had one top-30 finish in her first full season racing World Cups since her serious knee injury in 2009.

She finished 23rd in super-G and 28th in downhill at this year's world championship.

Her results didn't meet the criteria to stay on the national team, although coaches can lobby to put an athlete on the squad.

"I take full responsibility for the kind of season that I had," Yurkiw said. "My goals weren't met.

"But with that said, I wouldn't be the first person, with the type of injury I had, to take this first full season back to grind it out.

"I need another year. Alpine Canada doesn't have the money to give it to me. I have to go find it myself."

Yurkiw earned her first World Cup top-10 in 2009 and was a rising talent behind veterans Emily Brydon, Britt Janyk and Kelly VanderBeek.

But Yurkiw crashed during training in Val-d'Isere, France, on Dec. 16, 2009, and tore multiple ligaments in her left knee. VanderBeek crashed the following day and also seriously injured her knee.

Both women required reconstructive surgeries and could not race in the 2010 Winter Olympics. Brydon, Janyk and VanderBeek have all retired. Yurkiw isn't ready to join them.

"I think if I had put together some great races top to bottom and they still weren't the results I wanted, I would be able to close this chapter," Yurkiw said

"I had too many good sections followed by tough ones to feel that I reached my potential in this sport.

"It's not even unfinished business. It's just what I owe to myself, to see it through."

She's currently dryland training in Owen Sound, but must get on snow this summer.

The women who met national-team criteria this past season will start training at Nakiska and Sunshine resorts in Alberta next month, but Yurkiw was not invited.

Among her options is joining another country's team for summer snow training, but that costs money.

"I don't know where my place will be, but I've decided to fully commit to this journey and hope the details fall into place in a timely fashion," she said, her voice trailing off.

Her best chance of reclaiming a spot on the national team is to get into the season-opening women's World Cup in Lake Louise, Alta., in December.

Yurkiw then has to post a result that gets Alpine Canada's attention there.

Canada's 2013-14 World Cup team will be announced next month.

Gartner says money has to go where it has the best chance of producing medals.

"Our whole goal is to focus on medals, medals, medals," he said.

"Funding is obviously limited. We have to put our resources on two priorities. One is the athletes who have a chance to win medals in Sochi and the second one is on athletes who have a chance at winning medals in 2018 and 2022."

The men's speed team and women's slalom and giant slalom racers Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac-Etchemin, Que., and Erin Mielzynski of Brampton, Ont., are the athletes who get the lion's share of funding.

Those skiers have produced the most international medals and top-10 results recently.

It costs at least $200,000 a year to fund one skier for a World Cup season, Gartner says.

He says the 2013-14 World Cup team will be smaller than in other years, but Canada's developmental team will be larger with a view to the 2018 and 2022 Winter Games.

"It's a shift of resources," Gartner said.

Yurkiw will have to find her own resources in the coming months. She says she has told her personal sponsors of her situation.

As the host country, Canada can have up to six women race the downhill and super-G at Lake Louise.

After that, the country is limited to one quota spot for women's World Cup races in Europe.

"It's not fair to say we are dropping women's downhill," Gartner said.

"We are in the unfortunate situation in which we have a lot more spots in slalom, but we only have one spot in downhill in races outside of Canada. Who is going to get that spot? Most likely somebody who is on the team. If not, anybody else can still claim that spot by showing us good results.

"If somebody believes they can still do it, then we will leave that door open, but they have to fund it themselves."