By Patrick Lang
VAL GARDENA, Italy, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Canada and Norway joined forces several years ago in a bid to challenge the major Alpine skiing nations such as Austria, Switzerland, Italy and France and the move is paying off.
In Friday's Super-G in Val Gardena, Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal won ahead of Canada's Jan Hudec while in Saturday's downhill on the same Saslong piste, Canada's Erick Guay won ahead of Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud with Svindal fourth.
The cooperation is mostly in the speed events with Canadians Guay, Hudec, Manuel Osborne-Paradis and Benjamin Thomsen sharing coaches and summer training with Svindal and Jansrud.
"It's great to see. We work close with the Norwegians. Both Aksel and Kjetil are great guys so I'm glad to share this podium with them," said Guay, who has now equalled the Canadian record of 20 World Cup podiums held by Steve Podborski.
But while skiers from both nations share information about course conditions on race day, they keep their own counsel at big events like the world championships or Olympics.
"There's always a separation, you don't want to give your secrets away. But I still consider Aksel and Kjetil my friends, people I have respect for and I enjoy working with the Norwegian coaches. But on race day we're rivals," Guay said.
Though rare, such cooperation is not new.
In the 1990s, American downhill specialists trained with the Austrians until Daron Rahlves became Super-G world champion in St Anton in 2001, beating three Austrians on their home snow.
Austrian media were outraged and the cooperation ended.
The traditional Alpine skiing countries are increasingly, being challenged by the North American and Nordic nations as shown by Saturday's downhill results with the highest-placed Swiss sixth, the top Italian eighth and the best Austrian 11th. (Reporting by Patrick Lang; Editing by Ken Ferris)