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November 17, 2012, BRUKSVALLARNA, Swe.  (ISN) — Canada’s Ivan Babikov proved he is ready to join in the fun and fight his way back onto the international podium this year after winning the bronze medal in his final cross-country ski race Saturday before the start of the World Cup season next week.

One of the gutsiest athletes on the World Cup circuit, the 32-year-old Babikov clocked a third-place time of 31:50.0 in the 15-kilometre skate-ski race in Bruksvallarna, Sweden.

“That was a great start for sure,” said a confident Babikov, who was in eighth spot mid-way through the race. “I started out pretty slow on the first loop, but then went out on the second lap and got into a good tempo. I made up some time on the final loop and was really happy to finish third.”

The two-time Olympian shared the podium with Sweden’s Johan Olsson who posted the time of the day at 31:17.3, and Daniel Richardsson, who skied to the silver with a time of 31:28.4.

Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., tested a sore ankle on Saturday. The second-place finisher in the overall standings on the World Cup last year, went hard off the start before dropping back into 10th spot, finishing the race with a time of 32:44.5. Calgary’s Kevin Sandau was the only other Canadian to suit up on Saturday and finished 36th at 34:11.3 in the field of 116 athletes.

Nicknamed the bulldog, Babikov is one of four Canadian men ever to win a World Cup cross-country ski race when he captured the top spot of the podium in the final grueling stage of the 2009 Tour de Ski – a race which sends athletes on a punishing nine-kilometre journey with the final three kilometres climbing a 28 per cent hill grade up Alpe Cermis in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

A handful of top-10 finishes since, Babikov has watched his friends and World Cup comrades – Alex Harvey, Devon Kershaw, and Len Valjas – make history over the last couple of years while blazing a trail throughout Europe of memorable medal-winning performances. This year, he is determined to join in the action.

“It was one of my best summers for training so this race gives me a lot of confidence,” said Babikov. “Justin <Wadsworth, head coach> and I really worked on my strength and did a few different intensity workouts. This result shows everything we did this summer worked so my confidence is really growing.” 

Babikov will have the chance to show his stuff to the world when the World Cup dance gets underway with the same race – a 15-kilometre skate – on November 24.

No Canadian women started on Saturday. The Canucks will be in full force in Sunday’s sprint race for the final World Cup tune-up in Bruksvallarna, Sweden.

CrossCountry Canada is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the

Complete Results: 

Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:

  1. Johan Olsson, SWE, 31:17.3
  2. Daniel Richardsson, SWE, 31:28.4
  3. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., CAN, 31:50.0
  4. Lars Nelson, SWE, 32:01.9
  5. Anton Lindblad, SWE, 32:04.6

Canadian Results:

10. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., 32:44.5

36. Kevin Sandau, Calgary, 34:11.3