OTEPAA, Est.—Alex Harvey celebrated his best-ever classic-ski sprint result, but was nudged off the podium, finishing fourth by fractions of a second in Otepaa, Estonia on Saturday.
“That was a close one today,” said Harvey, who won his lone sprint medal last year in Drammen, Norway when he was second in the skate-ski race. “Fourth is awesome, but it is a little heartbreaking too. Devon (Kershaw) was fourth at the Tour, and we’ve been fourth at the Olympics. It is a little tough to take, but I have to behappy today.”
In his first race back since taking last week off to rest in the Canary Islands with his teammates after the Tour de Ski, the 23-year-old picked up where he left off skiing in control all day. Qualifying in fifth spot for the head-to-head heats with the top-30 athletes, the St-Ferréol-les-Neiges,Que. native won his opening two rounds to advance into the finals where he was matched up against Tour de Ski winner Dario Cologna and three powerful Norwegians. The top-two athletes in each round continue on towards the finals.
Making the decision to start on skate-skis, Harvey double-poled the challenging Otepaa course, which features two big hills. The 2010 World Champion followed his strategy of hanging onto Cologna for much of the final heat until the last corner into the finish stretch where he made a surge for the medals. His move was short-lived as the pack responded, and the Canadian phenom was edged off the podium.
“Pure sprinters train a lot more for double-poling than distance skiers so I was a little nervous today because it is a really hardcourse,” said Harvey. “But I skied in tact with the leaders and just fell out of the medals at the end.’
“I wasn’t sure how the body was going to respond today being my first race back, but I felt really good and in control,” added Harvey. “Getting away from skiing last week was really good for my body and head. I was really tired, but was able to just relax and lay on the beach. Overall I’m really happy with today and felt great.”
Switzerland’s Dario Cologna showed no signs of rust after the Tour claiming the gold medal. Norway’s Ola Vigen Hattested was second and Eirik Brandsdal, also of Norway, grabbed the bronze.
Harvey’s fourth-place finish continues a historic streak the Canadian Cross-Country Ski squad have been building this year. The Canucks have combined to place one athlete in the top-five in every World Cup stop this season, including the overall at the Tour de Ski.
“This demonstrates the consistency and high level this team is at each day,” said Justin Wadsworth, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team. “Today Devon broke a pole, but Alex was in a fight for the podium. To have somebody in the hunt for the medals each week is the key to winning and shows the depth of the team and program we are creating in Canada. This is a goal of ours and we are looking to continue this trend throughout the year.”
Toronto’s Len Valjas aslo had a top-five finish earlier this year. Valjas qualified for the heats Saturday, but was matched up alongside Harvey in the quarter-finals and did not move on, finishing 21st. Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., had his podium hopes crashed in the qualifying round when he broke a pole, dropping him to 40th.
Meanwhile, Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., and Chandra Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., qualified for the heats in the women’s classic-sprint race. Both Canadians put up a strong fight in the quarter-final round, but did not advance.
Gaiazova finished 17th, while Crawford was 22nd.
Perianne Jones, of Almonte, Ont., who Crawford teamed up with to win a bronze medal with last weekend in Italy, did not qualify for the heats, placing 3110th.
Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk won the women’s race. Norway’s Marit Bjoergen grabbed the silver medal, while Russia’s Natalia Matveeva locked up the bronze.
The World Cup continues on Sunday in Estonia with the men’s and women’s classic-ski middle distance races.
Cross Country Canada is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 55,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas, Teck Resources Ltd., Canadian Pacific, and Statoil – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee and Own the Podium, Cross Country Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on Cross Country Canada, please visit us at www.cccski.com
Complete World Cup Results: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/1228.html?cal_suchsector=CC&event_id=30407
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
1. Dario Cologna, SUI; 2. Ola Vigen Hattested, NOR; 3. Eirik Brandsdal, NOR; 4. AlexHarvey, St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., CAN; 5. Nikita Kriukov, RUS
Other Canadian Results:
21. Len Valjas, Toronto; 40. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont.
Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:
1.Justyna Kowalczyk, POL; 2. Marit Bjoergen, NOR; 3. Natalia Matveeva, RUS; 4. Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, FIN; 5. Katerina Smutna, AUT
17. Daria Gaiazova, Banff, Alta.; 22. ChandraCrawford, Canmore, Alta.; 3110. Perianne Jones, Almonte, Ont.