Record Season for Canadian and American Skiers
North American highlights of the past World Cup race season are topped by Canadian Alex Harvey's back-to-back gold medals, followed by a bronze for the Canadian men's relay team. And just when it seemed the results had peaked, Harvey's performance continued to sparkle with gold and silver in the stellar events in that took place in Quebec City, Que. at the World Cup finale.
Dec. 10-11 – Davos, Switzerland
In the women's 15km freestyle Round #3 of the Viessmann FIS Cross Country World Cup in Davos, Switzerland, the U.S.A.'S Jessie Diggins was on fire, taking a historic fourth, with Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg of Norway winning her first 15km race. Norwegian teammate Heidi Weng took second and Finland's Krista Parmakoski was third.
Diggins delivered another top result in Davos, placing fifth in the women's freestyle sprint, as Maiken Caspersen Falla of Norway set a torrid pace for the win ahead of teammate Oestberg. Sweden's Hanna Falk took home third.
Dec. 17-18 – La Clusaz, France
In France, Canadian Dahria Beatty chalked up her best distance result for Canada, finishing 26th, earning her first World Cup distance points in the women's 10km freestyle mass start in La Clusaz, and U.S.A.'S Erik Bjornsen scored his first skate distance points with a solid 20th-place finish, a career-best result for him.
Team USA battled to seventh place in the women's 4x5km relay in La Clusaz, as Team Canada's Beatty, Emily Nishikawa, Cendrine Browne and Sophie Carrier-laforte brought home 12th.
Jan. 14-15 – Toblach, Italy
In Toblach, Italy, Harvey and Len Valjas won gold in their debut run in the men's World Cup Team sprint. The duo held their own, and on the final leg, Harvey attacked on the final climb and took the lead at the top of the final downhill into the stadium and never looked back to secure the title for the Canadians.
The duo rocked the traditional Canadian air-guitar show with their skinny skis in the finish area. It was the first time that Canada has won a Team sprint event since Harvey and Devon Kershaw won the gold medal in the Classic Team sprint at the 2011 World Championships in Norway.
Team USA'S Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton combined for a strong sixth-place finish. Hamilton turned in some impressive legs, winning his
first of three rounds and anchoring with the second-fastest time of the final leg.
Jan. 21-22 – Ulricehamn, Sweden
In front of energized crowds at the new FIS World Cup venue of Ulricehamn, Sweden, Canada's fab four – Kershaw, Harvey, Valjas and Knute Johnsgaard – delivered historic bronze, reaching the podium for the first time in the men's 4x7.5km World Cup relay.
Norway 1's Finn Haagen Krogh took the win over Sweden 1's Calle Halfvarsson in the finishing straight in a very close battle as Canadian anchor Valjas closed in on Halfvarsson for a photo finish that went to the Swede while the partisan crowd roared watching the thrilling finish. Only 0.5 seconds separated the top three teams on the final podium.
“The Team relay and the 50-kilometre are the biggest races in our sport by far, so this means the world to us,” said the 34-year-old Kershaw, who skied onto the podium for the first time in three years. “We have talked about this medal a lot when I first came onto the World Cup. It is something we have always wanted, and weren't able to get done in previous generations even back to the Pierre Harvey days or when Lenny, Alex and I were all winning multiple medals individually a few years ago. It shows just how hard it is.”
Following the Team sprint, Harvey carried on with the colour gold and put the hammer down for his second consecutive World Cup victory, winning the men's 15km freestyle Individual start at the new venue.
The win was historic, as he became the first Canadian cross-country skier to claim back-to-back gold medals on consecutive weekends on the World Cup and the first time Harvey has ever won a 15km skate-ski race.
Feb. 3-5 – Pyeongchang, South Korea
In a day of firsts marked by South Korea hosting its inaugural FIS Cross-country World Cup event, the U.S.A.'S Ida Sargent claimed her first World Cup podium with a third in the women's Classic sprint at the Pyeongchang Olympic test event. Teammate Sophie Caldwell topped the qualifications for a career-first win, finishing eighth. It was also rookie Elizabeth Guiney's first time in the World Cup heats.
Racing on the 2018 Olympic course, Valjas just missed the podium by the toe of his boot despite his long legs in a finish-line lunge in the men's Classic sprint final against Andrey Parfenov of Russia, who edged out the Canadian for the bronze.
In the men's 30km Skiathlon, Noah Hoffman finished eighth to match his best Individual World Cup finish, while teammate Scott Patterson in ninth re- corded his best-ever World Cup finish.
Liz Stephen continued the U.S.A.'S stellar start to the women's World Cup Olympic test event with another podium finish, claiming second to Poland's Justyna Kowaczyk in the women's 7.5km C + 7.5km F Skiathlon. The U.S.A.'S Caitlin Patterson was also on form, scoring a remarkable fourth, while Guiney continued to shine by crossing the line in 13th – both career bests.
Feb 18-19 – Otepaa, Estonia
In Otepaa, Estonia Diggins claimed a fab fifth in the women's 1.3km free-technique sprint, and Kikkan Randall signaled she's back, qualifying third and finishing ninth, as Stina toppled Norway's Falla for the win. Fellow Norwegian Heidi Weng was third.
The U. S. A.'s Hamilton finished a solid eighth in the men's 1.6km freetechique sprint, while Harvey was 15th, as Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo, 20, of Norway finally secured his first World Cup victory, putting him just behind series leader Federico Pellegrino ( ITA). Krogh ( NOR) finishe d second at 0.60 behind, with Russia's Sergey Ustiugov in third, a second back.
March 17-19 - Quebec City, Que.
Massive crowds and superb weather conditions were on hand for the FIS World Cup finals in Quebec City, Que., and start lines were packed with North American skiers led by local star Harvey, who did not disappoint.
In the women's field, Day One belonged to Nilsson, who triumphed over Falla in the women's 1.5km skate sprint final, with Falk in third. Falla's effort meant she captured the overall series Sprint Cup globe.
The depth of the American women's team was apparent, with five skiers qualifying to the heats. Diggins had a semi that included the top three sprinters of the day – and ended up fifth to claim ninth overall.
In near-perfect conditions, Harvey dazzled to claim gold in dominating fashion in the men's 1.5km freestyle sprint in front of thousands of ski fans gracing the Plains of Abraham under the bright blue skies.
Norway's Krogh took second, while France's Richard Jouve landed third on the podium, as Hamilton settled for fourth despite fine skiing throughout the day to make the final.
Jesse Cockney skied to 10th overall with a brilliant and patient ski in the quarterfinals, claiming second in his heat, but did not advance past his semifinal. With a second top-12 World Cup sprint placing this season, Cockney is in the running for the 2018 Olympic team.
Valjas finished 19th, while new Canadian team members Julien Locke and Bob Thompson followed in 20th and 30th respectively. Five Canadians qualified for the sprint World Cup sprint heats, which speaks to the success of the men's program.
“I saw him win in Sweden once, but that was it,” said Harvey's father, Pierre. “To win here, it's one of the greatest feelings you can have. We say we are `on a cloud.' When you're leading, your head almost starts spinning because you say, `Holy smokes, I may win it!' Then the race isn't so hard anymore.”
The battle for the men's sprint globe was decided in the men's semifinal when Pellegrino didn't advance, making Klaebo the youngest-ever Sprint Cup crystal globe winner. Pellegrino took second in the sprint overall and Norway's Sindre Bjoernestad Skar took third in the overall standings.
Harvey looked destined for another podium in the men's 15km Classic mass start as huge crowds cheered him on to a fourth-place finish. A mini-norwegian army was up front surrounding the Canuck, including Norway's Sjur Roethe and Swiss legend Dario Cologna. The duo were separated by less than two seconds at the finish from Klaebo, who claimed the victory for his first distance World Cup win, taking the final sprint to the line over teammate Nicholas Dyrhaug, with Russia's Alexander Bessmertnykh third on the podium.
Kershaw skied to 28th place, having broken a pole near the start and falling back to the sixties. The top American was Erik Bjornsen in 31st. Canada's Graeme Killick was just behind Bjornsen in 32nd.
In the women's 10km Classic, Sadie Bjornsen was the top North American women in 15th, as Norway's Marit Bjoergen continued her unbeaten streak in Classic-technique distance races this season, taking the win by just 0.6 sec- onds over Weng. Finland's Parmakoski claimed the final podium spot.
An all-star line-up began the women's 10km Pursuit finale, as Sadie Bjornsen skied a phenomenal final race to claim 10th, while Bjoergen showed why she is a legend, taking the win and the mini-series over Weng, with Sweden's Nilsson in third. Nishikawa was the top Canadian on home turf in 38th and was all smiles at the finish. Weng had already captured the overall World Cup title and series crystal globe, along with the Distance globe, for the first time in her career.
A massive turnout of fans were on the edge of their seats again as Harvey raced to the finish at the final World Cup race of the season on the Plains of Abraham, the men's 15km freestyle Pursuit. The Quebec star battled two strong Norwegians, Klaebo and Dyrhaug, to claim silver in a photo-finish cli- max that Klaebo won by a boot toe, also becoming the youngest winner of a mini-tour, with Dyrhaug third.
Erik Bjornsen was the next best North American in 25th. Kershaw, who was in 26th, plans on contesting for a spot on the 2018 Olympic team.
Harvey's silver-medal finish on the final day and performance all weekend secured him second place in the Quebec City mini-series, and he maintained his third-place ranking in the men's FIS overall standings, won by Norway's Martin Johnsrud Sundby. Klaebo also picked up the U23 Men's World Cup crystal globe.
(right) The U.S.A.'S Jessie Diggins was the top-ranked North American woman.
(opposite) Canada's fab-four air guitar (l-r): Len Valjas, Alex Harvey, Knute Johnsgaard and Devon Kershaw delivered historic bronze in the men's relay at Toblach, Italy. (top) The U.S.A.'S Ida Sargent nails first World Cup podium at the Pyeongchang Olym
(above) Canada's Alex Harvey took home 3rd in the men's World Cup overall rankings and 2nd overall in the Distance series.
(above left) American Simi Hamilton claimed 9th overall in Sprint Cup as the top North American. (above right) Women's Skiathlon podium at Pyeongchang Olympic test event (l-r): Liz Stephen (USA), Justyna Kowalczyk (Pol), Masako Ishida (JPN)