Ivan Babikov Skis to 17th at 2014 Olympic Venue in Russia

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February 3, 2013, Sochi, Rus (ISN) – Ivan Babikov enjoyed a solid first outing on the 2014 Olympic course with a 17th-place finish in Sochi, Russia on Saturday.

The 32-year-old Babikov battled at the front of the pack on the soft snow-covered trails for most of the first half of the race before dropping to the back of the top-20. Bouncing around in the lead group, the two-time Olympian hammered his way up to 10th spot on the final hill of the challenging Russian skate-ski course, but couldn’t find the next gear, and finished 17th at 1:21:34.0 in the 30-kilometre skiathlon.

“It was good to get out there and see how things are going to be next year,” said Babikov. “The skate course is incredibly hard which should be in my favour, but I just had one gear today. It was a good test today though.”

Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., has enjoyed the best season of his career. Regularly in the top-20, the highlight of his season came one month ago when he celebrated the silver medal on the punishing final stage of the Tour de Ski in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

“It has been a good season for sure when you look at the points,” added Babikov. “It feels good to finally be up there and in the red group. This week was another important World Cup week for points, but it was also just really important to test the snow, weather and see what we will deal with next year.”

Switzerland’s Dario Cologna finished on top of the podium with a time of 1:21:00.0. Russia’s IIia Chernousov was second at 1:21:01.6, while Alexander Legkov, also of Russia, grabbed third place on the podium with a time of 1:21:01.8.

Fresh off his best result of the season in Friday’s sprint race, Devon Kershaw played his part controlling the pace for the first 10-kilometres of the classic-ski portion of the race. The Sudbury, Ont. Olympian dropped back in the pack after the world’s best transitioned equipment for the grueling skate-ski course. The 30-year-old Kershaw finished 38th at 1:22:37.3.

No Canadian women competed on Saturday. The final test for the world’s best cross-country skiers on the Olympic venue is Sochi is set for Sunday with the team sprint event.

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, AltaGas, Statoil and Canadian Pacific – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium and B2ten, Cross Country Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on Cross Country Canada, please visit us at www.cccski.com.

Complete Results: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/1228.html?cal_suchsector=CC&event_id=31857

Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:

1. Dario Cologna, SUI, 1:21:00.0; 2. IIia Chernousov, RUS, 1:21:01.6; 3. Alexander Legkov, RUS, 1:21:01.8; 4. Maxim Vylegzhanin, RUS, 1:21:02.2; 5. Evgeniy Belov, RUS, 1:21:07.5

Canadian Results:

17. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., 1:21:34.0; 38. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., 1:22:37.3