February 21, 2013, Val Di Fiemme, Ita (ISN) – Alex Harvey scripted another chapter for the history books on Thursday when he became the first Canadian male to win an individual medal at the Nordic World Ski Championships.
The 24-year-old Harvey took on the biggest names in the sport to win the bronze medal in the classic-ski sprint race at the opening day of the premiere event on the international cross-country ski calendar.
“This is absolutely huge. I am so thrilled,” beamed the 24-year-old Nordic phenom. “The day started a little tricky with me qualifying 26th, but the skis sped up as the day went along, and I felt absolutely great in the final. This is huge for our program, and I hope the team can build a lot of confidence from this for the rest of the Championships.”
Russia’s Nikita Kriukov won the men’s race. Norway’s Petter Northug skied to the silver.
The day looked grim for the Canucks with the St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que. resident as the lone Canadian qualifier with the top-30 for the head-to-head heats.
With the nation’s hopes on his shoulders, Harvey wasted no time demonstrating his fitness in front of the thousands of screaming, flag-waving fans that lined the punishing 1.5-kilometre sprint course in Val di Fiemme. Harvey executed the team’s race strategy to perfection cruising his way into the semis after winning his quarter-final heat. The top-two in each heat move on to the next round.
Snow falling after the opening round sent the Canadian wax techs into a frenzy, adjusting wax and switching skis between heats, determined to keep Canada’s medal hopes alive.
“There was a lot of action in the wax room and communication on the course today for sure,” said Justin Wadsworth, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team. “These guys we have are the best in the business and should take a lot of pride in that medal today. It was a great team effort, and Alex showed all you need is one in the heats and anything can happen.”
Harvey secured his ticket into the finals after finishing third in a quick second round, earning one of two lucky loser spots in the dash for the medals.
Lined up against the most powerful sprinters in the world, Harvey executed the same tactics in the final. Starting slow, Harvey settled into the back of the pack before making his move on the inside up the two steep climbs. The young Canuck slingshot his way into third spot after the final corner that winds into the long downhill finish stretch where he double-poled like mad to the podium.
“It was such a quick turn-around from the semis so I was a little tired in the final, but I just tried to stay connected to the pack,” said Harvey. “Things weren’t looking so good, but everything just worked out in the end, and I am so happy.”
The bronze medal is the third podium in the history of the Canadian program. Harvey joined forces with Devon Kershaw in 2011 where they skied to the gold medal in the team sprint in Oslo, Norway. Four-time Olympian, Sara Renner, was the first Canadian cross-country skier to win a medal at the World Championships when she claimed the bronze in a classic-sprint race at the 2005 World Championships in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Harvey has had great success at the Val di Fiemme venue where he has won two of his seven career World Cup medals. Harvey won the bronze medal in a 15-kilometre mass start race in Val di Fiemme earlier this year on the Tour de Ski. He also won a silver medal in the same race at last year’s Tour.
“This is quite a hard course and it really allows me to express myself in the last 200 metres. That suits my strength and I think that is maybe why I have been able to have success here,” said Harvey.
Norway’s Marit Bjoergen dominated the field to win the women’s race. Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter finished second, while Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla locked up the bronze.
Other Canadian results on Thursday included: Toronto’s Len Valjas in 40th; Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., in 46th; and Phil Widmer, of Banff, Alta., placing 49th in men’s racing. Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., was 42nd; Perianne Jones, of Almonte, Ont., was 48th; Andrea Dupont, of Timmins, Ont., placed 49th; and Emily Nishikawa, of Whitehorse, finished 57th in women’s action.
The Nordic World Ski Championships continue on Saturday with the men’s and women’s skiathlon races.
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
1. Nikita Kriukov, RUS; 2. Petter Northug, NOR; 3. Alex Harvey, St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que.; Emil Joensson, SWE; 5. Paal Golberg, NOR.
Other Canadian Results:
40. Len Valjas, Toronto; 46. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont.; 49. Phil Widmer, Banff, Alta.
Complete Results: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/