When Canadian Cameron Alexander shocked ski racing fans, blazing from the 39th starting position to win his first World Cup race in Kvitfjell, Norway, on Friday, a select few diehards back home were tuned into the live feed during the wee hours, well before the crack of dawn.
Two such diehards, of course, were Cameron’s parents Bruce and Heather.
“It’s been quite a 24 hour period for us, what a rollercoaster ride … the highs and lows of ski racing are extreme,” said Bruce, referring to an injury to Cameron’s younger brother Kyle, a rookie on the Canadian World Cup team, who crashed during the second training run yesterday, resulting in a deep laceration to his upper arm and elbow, which required surgery and effectively ended his season. Kyle is currently leading the NorAm super G standings and sits in second in the downhill, combined and overall.
But shortly after 3:30 am this morning in the Alexander household in North Vancouver, the pendulum swung the opposite direction when Cameron blazed to his first World Cup win in only his 14th start on the tour.
“I know Cam loves that track and he was confident going in but to see him on that podium just blew us away,” Bruce said, admitting that Heather was the first to rise and login to the live feed, stating nerves kept him in bed. “But mostly I’m super proud of him, he’s worked hard under some adversity in the last year and a bit and he deserves the result.”
The 24-year-old Alexander shared the top step of the podium with Swiss racer Niels Hintermann, as both were deadlocked at 1 minute, 44.42 second, making him the first Canadian to win a World Cup downhill race since Erik Guay won on the same track in Kvitfjell in 2014. Alexander’s only previous top 10 result in World Cup came on the same track, when he finished 10th in the downhill two years ago.
“To win in the same place that somebody like Erik [Guay] has … to be at the same level as he was at the same race, is crazy, phenomenal,” Alexander said. “He has obviously shown greatness throughout his career in this sport and he is someone I looked up to coming up as a ski racer.”
“I just tried to give it everything I had,” Alexander continued. “I knew I had speed here, so all I had to do was go out there and try to let it go.”
Dogged determination, overcoming setbacks
Alexander’s career path trajectory may appear swift but according some insiders, it’s been a long time coming.
“He’s always been 100 percent determined and driven to do the work,” said Johnny Crichton, VP Athletics for BC Alpine. “Nobody outworks Cam; even with today’s results he’s already focussed on tomorrow, he will barely celebrate tonight I can tell you that.”
Alexander missed most of last season after he suffered an early-season knee injury in Val d’Isere, France, forcing him into rehab mode to start the 2021 calendar year. He was fully recovered to start the season but faced another setback with a deep bone bruise and a broken thumb after a crash during the first downhill race at Lake Louise in December 2021.
The Canadian team coaches and staff pulled Alexander back to focus on training, opting to forgo Kitzbuhel in January to build back up physically and mentally. The move paid off in spades, with Alexander winning a Europa Cup in Kvitfjell and taking second in a super G shortly after the Olympic Games ended where his teammate Jack Crawford won Canada’s first men’s Olympic medal since 2014.
“Racing here after winning in the Europa Cup gave Cam a big boost of confidence,” said Canadian men’s head coach Mark Tilston. “He crashed in Lake Louise [this season] and that dropped his confidence, which was compounded with coming back from injury. He worked so diligently through his rehab. These guys, this team, they all work so hard and stay focused on what they are trying to achieve.
“Hard work has clearly paid off,” Tilston says of Alexander.
“He’s fortunate to be part of that team, they all grew up together and it’s such a positive environment,” said Bruce. “That team is coming into their own and there’s a bright future ahead in the next number of years.”
For Crichton, who worked with both Alexander brothers Kyle and Cameron during their development years, today’s race was a joyful moment but not necessarily a surprise.
“I woke up early and cracked the race open to see live timing and I’m scrolling down and I’m thinking ‘where’s Cam?’ … then I started scrolling back up, scrolling and scrolling and then I see the Canadian flag there at the top and I just started screaming,” Crichton said, while on site at the World Junior Championships in Panorama.
“They’re on the way to becoming a powerhouse team,” he said. “They have fantastic coaching, a great team and they will keep moving the needle. I was very stoked to see Cam’s win but honestly I’m not overly surprised.”
North Van Freight Train
The Alexander family, close-proximity neighbours with the Seger (Brodie and Riley) and Jordan (Asher and Tait) families, contributes to a once-in-a-lifetime trifecta of siblings all on the rise at the same time. They all attended Handsworth Secondary, not far from the Sea-to-Sky Highway 99 which leads to Whistler.
Brodie Seger, one of the Canadian men’s team leaders, finished 25th in today’s race in Kvitfjell and at times this season has challenged for a podium finish, including in the downhill portion of the combined in Beijing, where he finished third. Both Riley Seger and Asher Jordan have made rapid moves towards becoming World Cup regulars after dominating at the Nor Am level and Tait Jordan today finished in 10th in the downhill at the World Junior Championships in Panorama. As outlined in a recent editorial all six North Vancouver skiers came through the Whistler Mountain Ski Club program.
“I believe in all of them, they’re all winners,” said Crichton. “It’s not like we’re rolling the dice here, these guys have the foundations to win … and to win at all levels.”