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KUEHTAI, Austria - It didn't take long for Swedish skier Sara Hector to follow up her first World Cup podium with her maiden victory.

Just two weeks after coming second in a giant slalom in Are, Sweden, Hector upset all pre-race favourites to win a GS on Sunday.

"I am a bit surprised," said the 22-year-old Hector, who won the junior world title in the discipline in 2011. "It's not easy to put words on it. It's emotionally different from Are as my family was there. It's just crazy that it's all happening."

On a course new to the World Cup, Hector finished in a combined time of 2 minutes, 17.61 seconds to beat Anna Fenninger of Austria by 0.09 seconds.

American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin, who led after the opening run, came 0.18 behind in third while Marie-Pier Prefontaine of St-Sauveur, Que., was a career-best sixth place. Tina Maze of Slovenia was seventh to remain in the lead of the overall standings.

"I am skiing well all season and luckily it's now showing in the races, too," Hector said. "I have developed, I am mentally and physically stronger, and my equipment and set-up are good."

Hector, who posted the fifth-fastest time in the second leg, trailed Shiffrin by 0.27 after the opening run, but the American lost a piece of her advantage at every split time of her final run.

Shiffrin still led by 0.04 at the last intermediate time but didn't pick the fastest line toward the finish and dropped to third, acknowledging she lost "maybe one-tenth" there.

Hector's win was "not a big surprise" to Fenninger, the defending overall champion from Austria said.

"I expected her back on the podium soon," said Fenninger, who struggled with the aftermath of a cold. "I've been a bit ill during the

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CAREZZA, Italy - Canadian snowboard team veterans Caroline Calve and Jasey-Jay Anderson kicked off the season in style Tuesday by reaching the podium at the FIS Alpine Snowboard World Cup.

Calve, from Gatineau, Que., won silver in the women's parallel giant slalom while Anderson, from Lac-Superieur, Que., took bronze in the men's event.

''It feels great to finish on the podium,'' said Calve. "I would have liked to finish first, but I think that if I would have been able to choose the blue course, I would have had a better chance. The red course surprised me in the final. But I'm very happy with second place.''

Calve's only loss in the elimination round was to Marion Kreiner of Austria in the final. The Canadian defeated Ariane Lavigne of Mont-Tremblant, Que., in the round of 16, Anke Karstens of Germany in the quarter-final and Russia's Natalia Soboleva in the semifinal.

Nadia Ochner of Italy took the bronze. Marianne Leeson of Burlington, Ont., was 13th and Lavigne finished 15th.

In the men's competition, Roland Fischnaller of Italy delighted the home crowd with an easy victory after Zan Kosir of Slovenia crashed out in the finals. Anderson, who won gold at the Vancouver Olympics, defeated Rok Marguc of Slovenia for the bronze and his first World Cup medal since 2010.

"I didn't expect a result like this,'' Anderson said. ''But when things are good you can expect the unexpected. This was my kind of race. The snow was forgiving, you could be very aggressive and you had to be precise also. I was pretty comfortable today."

Article courtesy of The Canadian Press

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Canada's Dara Howell had a hard time believing she was actually an Olympic gold medallist in the weeks following the Sochi Games.

The accomplishment still hasn't quite sunk in.

Some 10 months after making history in Russia as the first women's Olympic slopestyle ski champion, the 20-year-old from Huntsville, Ont., still has to pinch herself from time to time.

"I think when I'm old and, like 50, I'll probably realize what happened," Howell said with a laugh on a conference call. "But for now I'm just enjoying it and taking opportunities that come my way and just keep moving forward."

Howell spent most of the summer off her skis, but that moving forward she spoke of includes a Dew Tour event this week in Breckenridge, Colo.

"I'm just getting back into it, but things are coming back the way I want them to," said Howell, who also won silver at the 2013 world championships. "I think this season, it's more just having fun and doing what I love to do. That's pretty much it."

In slopestyle, athletes try to impress a panel of judges with tricks and moves off jumps and rails, with degree of difficulty, style and execution factored into the scoring system.

Howell scored 94.20 points at the Olympics in conditions that started off icy and fast before becoming slow and slushy as the event progressed.

With the next Games not until 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, both Howell and Canadian teammate Kim Lamarre — who won bronze in women's slopestyle in Sochi — view this season as an opportunity to grow.

"I'm looking forward to this year. I definitely want to not get ahead of myself," said Lamarre, a 26-year-old from Quebec City, Que. "There's a lot of good girls that are coming back from injury that

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LAKE LOUISE, Alta. - Larisa Yurkiw achieved her Olympic dream on her own.

The Owen Sound, Ont., skier continues to manage her own ski career back under the umbrella of the Canadian team. Dropped from the national team for 2013-14, Yurkiw raised about $150,000 via sponsorships, juggled the logistics of training and racing and ultimately qualified for the Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

The podium is the quest of every athlete at a Winter Games, but just getting into the start hut wearing the Maple Leaf required an Olympian effort from Yurkiw.

The sleepless nights, the pounding the pavement for sponsorships and the workload of managing herself and a support team while trying to achieve a pair of top-12 World Cup results "was probably more pressure than I've ever had," Yurkiw said Wednesday in Lake Louise, Alta.

She finished in the top-10 in two World Cup downhills to qualify for Sochi. Racing on a sub-par knee, Yurkiw was 20th in Olympic women's downhill. She was one of many women in the tricky super-G who missed a gate and were disqualified

"In the end, I was really happy to represent Canada, a very patriotic thing to do," Yurkiw said. "It was epic."

A catastrophic knee injury in 2009 kept Yurkiw from racing at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, B.C., and for almost two years after that.

She felt the impact of finally becoming an Olympian when she returned to Canada from Russia last spring.

"When it really hit me was when I came back to Owen Sound my hometown and did a puck drop and a meet-and-greet with the local OHL team," she said. "It was that feeling of community that made me realize what I was doing was an example for people to be braver in their

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Fifteen outdoor skating rinks officially opened across the GTA on Saturday, after a week of freezing temperatures swept through Toronto.

The rinks will be open until March 22. The rest of Toronto’s 51 operational outdoor rinks will open for skaters on Nov. 29 and will close Feb. 22, 2015.

Nathan Phillips Square and Colonel Samuel Smith Park’s skating trail were among the first batch of outdoor rinks to open, offering Torontonians a chance to make the most of the frosty weather.

For location-specific information such as hours of operation or skate rental rates, click here.

Children who are under 6-years-old must wear a helmet on City of Toronto rinks.

Article courtesy of thestar.com

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