Canada’s Remi Drolet proved he can compete with the top junior cross-country skiers on the planet after an impressive seventh-place finish in the 30-kilometre classic-ski mass start race, at the Nordic Junior World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland on Thursday.
The 18-year-old Drolet battled his way up and down the long and punishing hills five times while skiing around the six-kilometre loop to finish with a time of 1:15:23.1 – just six seconds off the golden pace.
“This is incredible. I’m super stoked,” beamed the Rossland, B.C. resident. “It just feels great to come here and start with a solid result and build throughout the week and have my best finish in the final individual race of the event.”
Competing in his second World Junior Championships, Drolet handled this race like a champion while toeing the line with the sport’s future stars. Skiing comfortably at the front of the pack for the first two laps, Drolet went face down in the snow while double-poling into the stadium when a competitor stepped on his skis.
Losing both skis and precious time on a tight field, the leader of the Canadian junior squad remained calm while regrouping to slowly build his way back into the pack.
“The coaches stressed if anything bad happened to just relax, and stay calm and build back up,” said Drolet, who was run over by the rest of the field skiing in behind him. “I put the skis back on, took my time and just built my way back up into the group. I likely expedited a bit of extra energy, but I was happy to regroup.
“The pace wasn’t too hard today. It definitely picked up at the end. It is still sinking in. I’m happy with where I came. It is encouraging to know all the training and preparation has worked and I can compete with the best junior skiers in the world. This is for sure motivating, and I’m so excited to see what I can do in the future.”
Drolet finished 6.4 seconds behind Italy’s Luca Del Fabbro who won the race with a time of 1:15:16.7. Norway’s Haavard Moseby edged out Switzerland’s Cyril Faehndrich for the silver medal. Moseby finished at 1:15:17.1, while Faehndrich was 1:15:17.2.
Two other Canadians finished in the top-25. Sam Hendry, of Canmore, Alta., skied to 20th spot with a time of 1:16:01.3, while Calgary’s Tom Stephen skied to 23rd place at just 16 years old. Pierrick Sarthou, of Longueuil, Que., rounded out the Canadian contingent at 46th (1:21:48.9).
“These are very strong results for this team who spends the majority of its time racing in Canada. It shows that we can be there,” said Erik Braten, Junior National Team Coach, Cross Country Ski de fond Canada. “It is a day like this that is so valuable for the development of the entire team when we go back home. It gives them the belief they can do it.”
It was a family affair for the Canadians on Thursday.
Drolet’s sister, Jasmine, was the top Canuck in the women’s 15-kilometre classic-ski mass start race. Jasmine Drolet posted a 36th-place time of 45:36.7. Anne-Marie Petitclerc, of Beaupre, Que., placed 40th (45:52.9), while
Calgary’s Anna Pryce was 46th (46:52.5), and Iobel Hendry, of Canmore, Alta., placed 59th (48:44.5).
Sweden’s Frida Karlsson handily won the final women’s individual crown of the week, clocking a gold medal time of 40:45.3.
Norway’s Helene Marie Fossesholm finished 52.1 seconds back in second with a time of 41:37.4. Finland’s Anita Korva skied into the bronze medal position with a time of 41:43.4.