Cook overcomes controversy to win silver
Canadian Dustin Cook celebrates after winning the silver medal during the men’s Super-G at the world championships in Beaver Creek, Colo. (USA TODAY SPORTS)
Dustin Cook was born in Toronto, calls Ottawa his hometown and lives in Lac-Sainte-Marie, Quebec.
But now he’s a bonafide Cowboy. On Thursday afternoon, Cook became the newest member of the Canadian Cowboys — guys on the national alpine ski team who have won a medal at the world championships or Olympic Games or on the World Cup circuit — by finishing in second place in the Super-G at the world championships in Beaver Creek, Col.
“Maybe not yet. Maybe once all this has sunk in I will.” Cook said with a laugh when asked if he now feels like a cowboy.
Cook, 25, earned his stripes (or in this case, a commemorative belt buckle) by stunning the field on the Birds of Prey course in Beaver Creek. The 28th racer down the course — and not considered by most to be a real contender in the race — Cook attacked the course, particularly on the lower half, and crossed the finish line 1:15.79, just behind winner Hannes Reichelt of Austria (1:15.68) and ahead of bronze-medallist Adrien Theaux of France (1:15.92).
Cook said he was less surprised that he managed a medal than most people in Beaver Creek. Last year, he was unable to crack a single top-30 finish in the World Cup. His best showing on the circuit was a 12th. But this season, Cook started turning things around, including a 19th-place finish on the famed Kitzbuehel Super-G.
“Obviously, everybody’s surprised because I’m not a name on the circuit yet or anything. But I’ve had good results this year and I’ve been building and I’ve been training really fast and had really, really good splits in all the Super G’s so far and knew that if I just put a run together, the podium was not a stretch,” Cook said.
Cook’s silver medal is also a huge shot in the arm for the banged-up Canadian men’s team which is without 2014 Olympic bronze medallist Jan Hudec, who suffered a torn meniscus racing the men’s downhill on Dec. 19 in Val Gardena, Italy, and 22-time World Cup medallist Erik Guay of Mt. Tremblant, Que., who is still rehabilitating after a pair of off-season knee surgeries last year. The team received some pointed criticism earlier in the week from former national team skier Brian Stemmle, which created a firestorm of controversy.
“(Lowest point) in a long time,” said Stemmle, now a Sportsnet analyst. “Even they would agree. They suck right now.”
The national team had been struggling this season. With Hudec and Guay out and mainstay Manny Osborne-Paradis not a big fan of the Birds of Prey Course, it appeared as though a medal for the Canadian men in Beaver Creek would be a huge longshot. That is until Cook stormed down the course.
One guy who jumped on Stemmle for his comments was Hudec.
“(I) felt like I needed to stand up for my teammates who are risking their necks for this country and for our sport,” Hudec told the Toronto Sun via Twitter. “In general (Stemmle’s) bad for business. He’s supposed to be on our team. Yet, he just sounds like a sour Betty all the time and then people that don’t know the sport assume he’s right...”
Stemmle, a three-time World Cup medallist, said he wasn’t knocking anyone on the team specifically, only the team’s recent results, though he understands why guys like Hudec would respond angrily.
“I’m totally fine with that,” Stemmle said. “They have their opinion and so do I and that’s okay. I remember when (former Crazy Canuck) Ken Read used to say stuff about us. It was the same thing. You’d get mad at it because you know how hard you’re trying, you know how difficult it is, and when you have guys slag you it feels like they don’t support you.
“All I was trying to do was speak on how they were performing,” Stemmle added. “Rather than say, ‘They suck.’ I said, ‘They know they suck.’ I respect all those guys because I’ve been there. I’m not trying to be controversial, I’m just trying to speak the truth and sometimes that rubs people the wrong way. And that’s OK.”
Cook said that when he crossed the finish line, for some reason he couldn’t make out much noise from the grandstand and figured his run wasn’t as good as he thought it was. But soon after, the cheering kicked in and he knew he had just nailed the best performance of his career.
“I pretty much lost my mind,” Cook said when asked how he felt at the finish. “Just super, super, super happy. Kind of in shock a little bit. I’m just obviously stoked.
“I just screamed a lot and just so, so happy. A little bit in disbelief at first, like ‘Really, is that you up there?’” he added. “But so many emotions at the same time.”
He said that skiing and training in Colorado is his favorite, partly because he loves the course and the snow, loves racing in North America and because his girlfriend, U.S. national team skier Abby Ghent, lives in nearby Edwards, Col. Cook said he planned to celebrate his medal by having dinner with her and her family and his dad Paul, who is in Beaver Creek.
“My dad and mom at first weren’t going to come out because historically I’ve had really bad performances when they’ve been around,” Cook said. “(But) luckily they came out. It’s unbelievable to be able to share it with them.”
American star Bode Miller cut the back of his right calf in a crash in the Super-G.