A Harvey Tradition
As I followed the World Championship men's 50km freestyle race in Lahti, Finland on the live International Ski Federation website, the last checkpoint before the finish was at 48.2km, and it showed Canada's Alex Harvey near the front, as he had been all day.
With only 1.8km to go, I began thinking about another 50km race back in 1988 that I had the privilege to watch in person in Oslo, Norway.
On that day, Alex's father, Pierre, won the 100th edition of what is likely the most prestigious single-day race in the world – the Holmenkollen 50km Classic.
In those days, the 50km was an interval-start race over a 25km course. The skiers started one by one every 30 seconds. Pierre had a very fast start, and by the end of the first lap, he was the leader by 30 seconds over second-placed Vegard Ulvang (NOR), who had started 30 seconds ahead of him. They were now skiing together, and it seemed that as long as Harvey stayed with Ulvang, he would win the race.
However, at the back of the field, Italian skier Silvano Barco was making his move, and when he reached my timing station at the 13km mark, he was within 30 seconds of Pierre and was gaining fast.
Frantically I called our other coaches on my walkie-talkie, but only reached our head waxer, John Plummer, who rushed out of the wax room to let Pierre know. Head coach Marty Hall in the stadium got wind of things via a PA announcement and sent a message to senior-team coach Laurent Roux, who informed Pierre. With three kilometres to go, Pierre put in a final push and ended up winning by 13 seconds. It was the greatest victory of his career and one of my best memories as a coach with the National Team.
Now, as the seconds ticked by, I waited for the moment that I could refresh my phone and see the final results from the current 50km in Lahti. When they flashed on the screen showing that Alex had won, I screamed “YESSSS!” and started running around the room.
Alex said that this was the greatest race of his life. He said that he had been feeling good all week, but was missing the magic. For the 50km F finale, he had the magic, and will forever be a world champion in an Individual event.
He and his father are the two greatest male skiers in the history of cross-country skiing in Canada. What a tradition.
Canada's Pierre Harvey wins the 100th Holmenkollen 50km Classic in 1988 – the first nonEuropean to claim this prestigious title.
Rare Holmenkollen Diplom presented to Pierre Harvey by the King of Norway following his victory.