World champion skier Erik Guay’s dream of an Olympic medal is over.
The Montreal native, one of Canada’s top medal hopes in alpine skiing, announced Wednesday that he will miss the Winter Games that begin Feb. 9 in Preongchang due to a back injury.
The 36-year-old has yet to decide whether to retire this year or next, but has no plans on sticking around for the 2022 Games in Beijing.
“I can definitely say I will not be there,” Guay said. “This was my final shot at the Olympic Games.
“As far as whether I’ll continue next year or not, that’s still a question mark. I think the remainder of the season is probably going to be finished for me.”
After a difficult season battling back problems it’s with a heavy heart that today I have made… https://t.co/KDJT4GklOl— Erik Guay (@erikguay) January 31, 2018
Guay was named to the Canadian team this week, but after testing his back, decided he was in no condition to compete.
“I had my doubts at the end of last week,” he said on a conference call. “I felt my back wasn’t progressing the way I want.
“But I wanted to wait until the last minute.”
An Olympic medal is about the only prize Guay has never won, although he came achingly close at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, and in 2010 in Vancouver.
He felt that, despite his age, Pyeongchang would have been his best chance. He entered this season ranked fifth in the world after winning gold in the suger giant slalom and silver in the downhill at the world championships in March.
Guay has been dealing with back trouble all season. He was forced to pull out of a race at Lake Louise in November, then revealed in early January that he had a ruptured disc in his back and would skip a couple of World Cups to return home to recover.
He hasn’t raced since injuring his back again on Dec. 16 at Val Gardena, Italy.
Guay said can do off-snow traning and can even get on skis, but as soon as he goes into the tuck position, the back locks up and the pain returns.
Guay said it would be wiser to skip the rest of the season because his ranking will be somewhat protected due to his injury, while if he returned for only one race and did badly, he would drop out of the world’s top 30. That would make it difficult to climb back into the top group.
“I think, from a safety standpoint, I’ll take the rest of the season off and try to rebuild my strength and try to get my back in a good place and then I’ll make a decision down the road on whether I want to compete next year,” said the father of four daughters. “It would be a shame to go out this way, though.
“I have it in my mind that I’d like to continue next year.”
The three-time Olympian is Canada’s most accomplished alpine ski racer. Guay has reached the World Cup podium on 25 occasions. He was also the 2011 world champion in the downhill.
“It’s definitely disappointing to have Erik miss out on the Olympics and we know this was a difficult decision for him to make,” said Alpine Canada athletic director Martin Rufener. ”He would certainly have been a medal contender if he was healthy.
“Despite Erik missing out, I’m very proud of the contingent of athletes we are sending to the Games and I know we will make Canada proud.”
Canada will send 13 alpine skiers to the Feb. 9-25 Games. There will be Canadian entries in all disciplines, including downhill, super-G, alpine combined, giant slalom, slalom and the team event.
(Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press)