(Note: This article has been updated to reflect the number of competitors registered as of Friday, Nov. 16, and approximate number of red-group skiers.)
With the Alberta World Cup in Canmore less than a month (more precisely, four weeks) away, Organizing Committee Chair Ken Hewitt said it’s been a whirlwind at work. The phone rings by the minute, emails are piling up in his inbox, but it’s all good.
As of Friday, Hewitt wrote in an email that 217 athletes registered for the distance and sprint races at the Canmore Nordic Centre from Dec. 13-16. Team registration closed Nov. 1, but nations were still sorting out whom they’d send. For instance, Sweden and Finland won’t pick their roster for the Canada World Cups (including the preceding Québec City sprints) until after the first World Cups at the end of the month.
And while certain big names in the sport have already announced they won’t be coming to either the Québec or Alberta World Cups (i.e. Norway’s Petter Northug, Marit Bjørgen, Therese Johaug, Switzerland’s Dario Cologna and Sweden’s Marcus Hellner), Hewitt was sure there wouldn’t be any shortage of competition between the 10/15 k classic, skate sprint and 15/30 k skiathlon.
“People are asking, ‘Are the top skiers coming to the World Cups in Canada?’ and the answer is unequivocally, yes,” Hewitt said.
No, last year’s World Cup champions, Cologna and Bjørgen, will instead stay in Europe to prep for the Tour de Ski, but the second-place finishers – Canada’s Devon Kershaw and Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk – will be there.
Norway planned to send 18 athletes, 15 of which were in the red group (World Cup top 30 in sprint or distance), Hewitt said. According to Norwegian head coach Vidar Løfshus, the entire national team except Northug, Bjørgen and Johaug planned to compete in Québec and Canmore.
In all, more than 80 red-group athletes had registered for Canmore. Individual entries won’t be finalized until early December, but the Alberta organizing committee has a good idea how many people are coming from each team.
Between athletes and coaches, Russia registered 56 and will likely have close to 34 skiers competing in Canmore. Canada as the host nation should have more than 30 athletes (with up to 14 quota spots per race), and most of the top Americans would be there, amounting to 20-something U.S. athletes, Hewitt said.
Twenty-one nations were registered, compared to slightly fewer than 20 in Québec. There’s been speculation whether the Quebec races will be more competitive, with its two sprints accounting for 20 percent of the World Cup calendar, but Hewitt said they expected 160 to 200 athletes in Canmore all along, so they’re “at the top end of their expectations.”
“We always knew they’d be coming,” he said. “In every World Cup, some athletes chose to sit out. You pick your race, Düsseldorf last year, some of the athletes missed it. It’s always that way. We were never particularly concerned, and we’re satisfied and reaffirmed when we see the size of the teams.”
Keeping in mind those numbers included coaches and technicians, Sweden has about 22 registered, Italy listed more than 20 and Kazakhstan plans to bring 17 or 18 individuals. Germany’s sending about a dozen athletes, six of which are in the red group.
“There’s no question, absolutely no question that both of the World Cups [in Québec and Alberta] will have top caliber A-team athletes,” Hewitt said.
In turn, lodging is filling up fast. Out of four hotels in town, only one has space left, Hewitt said.
2012 Alberta World Cup teams
- United States
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand