Two Canucks Climb into Top-15 at Cross-Country Skiing World Cup in Canmore

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December 16, 2012, CANMORE, Alta. (ISN) – Two-time Olympian Ivan Babikov, and senior development team athlete, Graham Nishikawa, gave the hometown crowd something to cheer about on a glorious Sunday afternoon at the Canmore Nordic Centre while skiing into the top-15 a World Cup skiathlon race.

With his World Cup teammates, Alex Harvey, Devon Kershaw and Len Valjas, resting on the sidelines in preparation for the upcoming grind of the Tour de Ski, the scrappy 32-year-old Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., carried the nation’s flag into the 30-kilometre men’s skiathlon where he finished 12th with a time of one hour, 17 minutes, 55.0 seconds (1:17:55.0).

“I thought I had to do something different today to have a good result in front of my home crowd,” said Babikov, who went out hard thinking he’d ski onto the podium while taking advantage of his skate-skiing ability. “I felt amazing in the classic. This is my best result this year, but we are not even halfway into the season?”

Babikov was in goodshape for most of the ultimate cross-country ski marathon where athletes ski 15 kilometres in the classic technique before changing equipment with the clock still running for another 15 kilometre journey skate-skiing on Alberta’s Nordic highways in Canmore.

Skiing at the front of the pack, the little bulldog tried to breakaway from the pack with two other athletes to take a run for the podium, but it wasn’t to be.

“You can never predict what is going to happen out there. I tried to bridge the gap on the two guys breaking away, but when you are out there by yourself trying to keep the pack away it is really hard. I tried – what can I say? It is still an awesome result.”

Speaking of awesome, 28-year-old Graham Nishikawa had the race of his life. A fourth year member of the national development team, the Whitehorse native had his best-ever World Cup finish in 15th with a time of 1:18:09.6.

“I didn’t know how long I’d last. My goal was just to stay with them as long as possible,” said Nishikawa. “When I hit the last lap I realized I only had 3.5 kilometres to go so I put my head down and tried to stay in contact. I knew I had it in me, but just so happy to do it at home.”

Maurice Manificat, of France, held off the Canadian charge while skiing to the gold medal with a time of 1:17:47.3. Italy’s Roland Clara was second at 1:17:48.0, while Norway’s Sjur Roethe rounded out the podium in third (1:17:49.0).

Other Canadian results in the top-40 included: Calgary’s Kevin Sandau in 34th (1:21:35.3); Paralympic legend Brian McKeever, of Canmore, Alta., in 38th (1:22:30.1); and Graeme Killick, of Fort McMurray, in 40th (1:22:46.7).

It was a day to remember for the Nishikawa household. Graham’s sister, Emily, also had her best World Cup result while leading two Canadians into the top-40 in the women’s 15-kilometre skiathlon. The 23-year-old second-year senior development teamathlete, who skis out of Whitehorse, finished as the top Canadian in 34th spot after posting a time of 46:30.7.

“Those girls go fast. I wasn’t able to keep the pace off the start, but I stayed in my rhythm and picked a few off in the skate,” said Nishikawa. “This is a great race for me and I’m thrilled. It is close to my first goal of getting into the top 30’s. It is a good start and I hope to build on this.”

Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., finished on the heels of Nishikawa in 37th spot at 46:33.4.

Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk won her second title of the week with a time of 42:51.5. Finland’s Anne Kylloenen grabbed the silver with a time of 43:26.4, while Norway’s Vibeke Skofterud claimed the bronze medal at 43:26.5.

Meanwhile, Mark Arendz was the lone Canadian to suit up on the IPC World Cup in Vuokatti, Finland on Sunday.

The 22-year-old Arendz, of Springton, P.E.I., finished in sixth spot in the men’s standing 12.5-kilometre biathlon pursuit race. Arendz, who won the bronze medal on Saturday, missed four shots in as many rounds of shooting, to post a time of 43:22.2.

Russia’s Azat Karachurin fired his way to the gold medal with a time of 40:08.2. Ihor Reptyukh, of the Ukraine, finished second with a time of 40:59.4, while Russia’s Kiril Mikhaylov missed two shots en route to placing third at 42:02.4.

Complete IPC Results:

Complete Results:;event_id=31849

Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:

1. Maurice Manificat, FRA, 1:17:47.3
2. Roland Clara, ITA, 1:17:48.0
3. Sjur Roethe,NOR, 1:17:49.0
4. Tobias Angerer, GER, 1:17:49.2
5. Eldar Roenning, NOR, 1:17:50.0

Top-40 Canadian Results:

12. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., 1:17:55.0
15. Graham Nishikawa, Whitehorse, 1:18:09.6
34.Kevin Sandau, Calgary, 1:21:35.3
38. Brian McKeever, Canmore, Alta., 1:22:30.1
40. Graeme Killick, Fort McMurray, Alta., 1:22:46.7

Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:

1.Justyna Kowalczyk, POL, 42:51.5
2. Anne Kylloenen, FIN, 43:26.4
3. Vibeke Skofterud, NOR, 43:26.5
4. Kristin Stoermer Steira, NOR, 43:27.3
5. Masako Ishida, JPN, 43:27.4

Top-40 Canadian Results:

34. Emily Nishikawa, Whitehorse, 46:30.7
37. Daria Gaiazova, Banff, Alta., 46:33.4 

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