VUOKATTI, Fin. (ISN) — Canada’s Brian McKeever and his guide, Erik Carleton, teamed up to capture the first title of the 2012 IPC World Cup finals in Vuokatti, Finland on Thursday.
The childhood ski friends growing up in Calgary, who won three silver medals and a gold earlier this year, climbed onto the top step of the podium in the visually impaired category after blazing their way around the 1.2-kilometre classic-skiing sprint course.
“I was a little jet lagged, but we had a good day today,” said the 32-year-old Mckeever, who arrived in Finland yesterday after taking part in the opening day of the Haywood Ski Nationals in Quebec.
“I came here with a good game plan that we executed really well today. Erik skied very tactical. We decided to double-pole the final which paid off because it started dumping snow.”
McKeever and the 34-year-old Carleton, who joined forces for the IPC World Championships last year, qualified second for the head-to-head heats and never looked back, winning both their semifinal and quarter-final rounds.
Two Russian teams joined the Canucks on the podium. Nikolay Polukhin and Ilya Cherepanov were second, while Stanislav Chokhlaev and Maksim Pirogov grabbed the bronze.
Canada’s Mark Arendz of Springton, P.E.I., who focuses on the biathlon races, had a solid day, finishing sixth in the men’s standing division. Norway’s Vegard Dahle won the category.
Chris Klebl, of Canmore, Alta., qualified in fifth spot in the men’s sit-skiing sprint races, but his day came to an end after finishing third in his heat as only the top-two athletes move on. While Klebl placed 10h, Russia’s Roman Petushkov skied to the top of the podium. Quebec’s Sebastien Fortier did not qualify for the heats and finished 17th.
Saskatoon’s Colette Bourgonje was the only Canadian woman to suit up on Thursday. The legendary Paralympian finished fifth in asmall, yet difficult, women’s sit-ski category that was won by Norway’s Mariann Marthinsen.
Meanwhile, back home in Mont-Ste-Anne, Que., 600 of the nation’s top athletes at all levels hit the trails for the Teck Sprint races at the Haywood Ski Nationals.
Olympic champion, Chandra Crawford, proved she continues to be the top skate-sprinter in the country by handling the field in the women’s race.
The 28-year-old Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., posted the fastest qualifying time at 3:17.5 around the soft 1.4-kilometre track, and stormed her way through the heats to win the gold medal.
Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., finished second, while Jennie Bender, of the United States, was the third-fastest finisher.
All eyes were focused on Canada’s Nordic Knights who headlined the finals in the men’s sprint race. With hometown hero, Alex Harvey of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., posting the fastest qualifying time at 2:51.27, it was the final showdown between Canada’s three medal-winners at the World Cup finals – Harvey, Devon Kershaw and Lenny Valjas – along with Phil Widmer, of Banff, Alta., that had the crowd glued to the 1.4-kilometre track.
The top Canadian men’s skiers in the history of the program did not disappoint as the national title came down to a thrilling sprint to thefinish between Harvey and Kershaw.
The 23-year-old Harvey successfully defended his home snow for the second-straight race, edging out his World Cup comrade at the line for the gold.
Kershaw, 29, placed second, while Widmer sprinted to the bronze-medal step of the podium.
Maya MacIssac-Jones, of Athabasca, Alta., won the junior women’s sprint title, while Quebec’s Alexis Turgeon claimed the Canadian title in the junior men’s category after finishing second to American, David Sinclair.
CrossCountry 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 IPC World Cup Results:
Complete Haywood Ski Nationals Results: www.zone4.ca