Comp In­ter­na­tional

Record Sea­son for Cana­dian and Amer­i­can Skiers

SkiTrax - - Contents - by Ben Andrew, Noah Brautigam and Julie Me­lan­son

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)

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