CANMORE, Alta.— Canada’s Cross-Country Ski Team heading to Europe in two weeks time will be focused on one goal this year – strong results!
And Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada believes the 12-person team they are fielding on the World Cup for the 2016-17 season is more than capable of taking care of business.
“There are 461 days until the opening of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, and it is now time to step up, and show we mean business,” said Tom Holland, high-performance director, Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada, who added Canada will fill its quota spots each race on the World Cup this year with six men and four women.
“We have named a strong mix of experienced leaders who have delivered medal-winning performances at the World Championships and on the World Cup, allowing the next generation to believe they too can win. We know we need to deliver on our mission, and that is what we plan to do this year.”
Leading the charge will be Alex Harvey (St-Férréol-les-Neiges, Que.), who captured two medals last season. Harvey, who has a gold, silver and two bronze medals at the World Championships, will be hungry to add to his haul at the premiere event in 2017 set for Lahti, Finland. Harvey’s golden teammate at the 2011 World Championships, Devon Kershaw (Sudbury, Ont.), will be looking to feed off a strong training period this summer with the Norwegian Ski Team in the Alps. They will be joined by Olympic teammates – Len Valjas (Toronto), who has multiple World Cup medals, along with Graeme Killick (Fort McMurray, Alta.), and Jesse Cockney (Canmore, Alta.). Knute Johnsgaard (Whitehorse) and Andy Shields (Thunder Bay, Ont.) will round out the men’s team. Killick, Cockney and Johnsgaard all celebrated breakthrough performances during the prestigious Ski Tour Canada last spring – highlighted by Cockney’s 10th place finish in the skate-sprint event in Quebec City.
With a goal to develop the next generation of elite skiers, Olympian and World Cup veteran Emily Nishikawa (Whitehorse) will lead a trio of rookies onto the World Cup. Nishikawa, who was regularly in the points one year ago, will be joined by 22-year-old Whitehorse skier, Dahria Beatty, a 20-year-old from Athabasca, Alta. in Maya MacIsaac-Jones and Cendrine Browne (St-Jérôme, Que.). Both Beatty and MacIsaac-Jones cracked the top-30 on the World Cup last year while racing on the Ski Tour Canada.
One more athlete will be named to the World Cup Team following Thursday’s final selection race at the Frozen Thunder Skate Sprint, presented by Buff, in Canmore, Alta.
Three-time Olympian, Ivan Babikov, begins his new career as a coach with the National Ski Team alongside Louis Bouchard.
“The work has been done. This team is in great shape. And it is now time to perform,” said Holland. “It is a big year for us, and at the end of the day, results are the only thing that matters. Our funding is obviously based on it. We build confidence from strong performances, and it is important to be mentally tough heading into an Olympic year. I believe as a team we can achieve our goals, and I know it will be an exciting ride this winter!”
The trail to Pyeongchang 2018 began at the Canmore Nordic Centre last week with a series of races on Frozen Thunder – a summer snow-preservation project that provides early season on-snow access at home for Canada’s best Nordic athletes.
The World Cup Team will leave Canada November 16 to prepare for the first set of World Cup races in Ruka, Finland November 26-27. The annual seven-race Tour de Ski, which is held over a nine-day period, will take place December 31 – January 8. The 2017 Nordic World Ski Championships are slated for Lahti, Finland, February 21 – March 5. Other important stops on the international race calendar include a World Cup race in Pyeongchang, February 3-5 and the World Cup Finals in Tuymen, Russia, March 16-19.