Yurkiw's self-funded downhill ski team starting to pay off

CORTINA D'AMPEZZO, Italy (AP) Larisa Yurkiw's self-funded team of one is starting to pay off.

The Canadian finished second in a World Cup downhill Friday for her first career podium result - an achievement that Yurkiw has had to work harder for than most skiers at this level.

That's because Alpine Canada dropped its money-draining women's downhill team two years ago, prompting Yurkiw to strike out on her own, hire a full-time coach and gather sponsors to support travel and training.

For this season alone, Yurkiw - of Owen Sound, Ontario - raised $250,000.

''We just don't have so much depth in Canada in women's speed racing, so they don't have a speed team,'' Yurkiw told The Associated Press. ''This is my baby and my passion, so I figured out a way to make it happen for myself. It's been amazing. It's one of those situations that you don't ask for but it's been a big education. It's definitely shown me what I'm made of.''

While Yurkiw still races in the Canadian team's yellow and red uniform, that's practically her only connection to the federation these days. Once she reaches the finish area, she dons her aqua-green Team Larisa jacket covered with patches from her sponsors.

Those sponsors, led by helmet sponsor and foreign exchange company Cresco FX, got plenty of visibility Friday as Yurkiw took advantage of an early start number on a shortened course in thick fog and low visibility to finish 0.15 seconds behind winner Elena Fanchini of Italy.

''At one point you have to be lucky,'' Yurkiw said.

The 26-year-old Yurkiw has had her share of bad luck, like when she tore up her left leg in a December, 2009 crash and missed her home Vancouver Olympics two months later. In all, she sat out two years of World Cup races.

Yurkiw started her personal team last season and qualified for the Sochi Olympics, where she placed 20th in downhill.

She opened this season by finishing fourth in a downhill on home snow in Lake Louise, Alberta, last month, and is now sixth in the downhill standings.

Her coach, Kurt Mayr, once worked with Austrian downhill legend Renate Goetschl.

''My coach is a jack of all trades,'' Yurkiw said. ''We get pretty creative on how to be efficient and creative and make it work for the most success possible.''

That involves training and sharing course reports with the Swedish, Norwegian and German teams.

''I call myself Team Larisa,'' Yurkiw said. ''But it's an umbrella of a lot of people's energy and effort.''

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Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf

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