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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Canada's Gagnon said new approach helped get best Olympic result in slalom

Posted: 02/21/2014 3:14 PM | Comments: 0

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KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - After a tough start to the 2014 Winter games, Marie-Eve Gagnon decided to have some fun.

It worked, as the Lac-Etchemin, Que., skier put out her best performance of the Games in the women's slalom Friday.

Her ninth-place finish, after either missing or crashing into a gate in her three previous competitions, came from changing her approach for the slalom.

"After the giant slalom (Tuesday), Marie-Pier Prefontaine and I went to Rosa Khutor to get something to eat at McDonald's and talk things over," said Gagnon. "To have your best performances, you have to be happy and have some fun, so that's what I've been doing the last couple of days, even in training."

Gagnon, who was fourth in World Cup slalom standings, separated her shoulder in the combined event early in the Games, then failed to finish both the giant-slalom and super-giant slalom races.

In the slalom, she raced conservatively on the first run and found herself 1.70 seconds behind eventual winner Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States.

She held nothing back on the second run, which gave her ninth place, 2.83 seconds off the lead, despite a little glitch halfway down the course.

"I really attacked," said the 24-year-old Gagnon. "If I hadn't made a mistake that slowed me down a lot, I might have had a shot at a podium or at least a top-five finish.

"It's disappointing when you know you had a chance. I was surprised when I saw the result that I finished that high. It tells me the approach I took on the second run is what wins medals. I'll need to do that in both runs, without making any mistakes, to maybe catch Shiffrin one day."

The 18-year-old Shiffrin became the youngest slalom champion in Olympic history. Austrians Marlies Schild and Kathrin Zettel won silver and bronze respectively.

"Mikaela is a prodigy," said Gagnon. "She works hard and she's really focused. She deserved it."

Despite her troubles at the Games, Gagnon feels she and the Canadian team can go back to the World Cup circuit feeling optimistic.

Britanny Phelan, 22, of Mont-Tremblant, Que., finished 15th with a strong second run.

"A top-15 in my first Olympic race is good — I can't wait for the next Games," said Phelan.

Two other Canadians, Erin Mielzynski of Guelph, Ont., and Elli Terwiel of Sun Peaks, B.C., were eliminated on the first run.

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