Saturday Sprint Races
Canadian athletes were on fire at the second stop on the Haywood NorAm Canada Cup circuit, the premier cross-country skiing development series on the continent.
More than 130 athletes representing Canada, the United States, Russia and Japan were entered in the one-kilometre Madshus Sprint Series at CODA’s Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, presented by the Foothills Nordic Ski Club. The Madshus Sprints are designed to encourage and promote Canadian cross-country skiers as sprint specialists.
Canadian athletes are beginning to excel in the sprint discipline as Canada was well represented in the 16 athletes that qualified for the finals in both the men’s and women’s divisions. The finals consist of four heats of four athletes, with the top-two athletes in each heat moving onto the next round.
It was an all-Canadian final in both divisions. Devon Kershaw of Subury, Ont. stepped onto the top spot of the podium for the first time this year after beating out teammates Sean Crooks of Thunder Bay, Ont., who finished second, and Drew Goldsack of Red Deer, Alta., who locked up third. George Grey of Rossland, B.C. was fourth.
“It was great being in an all-Canadian final. All of my teammates are very strong in the sprints, and I had to have everything on to come out on top today,” said the 20-year-old Kershaw. “I was thrilled with my performance today. I had great legs on the course, and felt strong from start to finish. I took the lead early on, and pushed myself not to let anyone by through the race.”
Chandra Crawford of Canmore, Alta. not only won the women’s sprint on Saturday, but also claimed the yellow bib, which represents the overall point’s leader, for the first time this season. The 20-year-old Crawford, a rookie on the senior team, has been battling it out all year with Dasha Gaiazova for top spot on the podium. While Crawford leaves Calgary with the gold, Gaiazova didn’t leave empty handed claiming the silver medal position. Milaine Theriault of St. Quentin, N.B., a 2002 Olympian who is continuing her journey down the comeback trail after giving birth to a boy this summer, rounded out the top-three. Perianne Jones of Almonte, Ont., a junior on the national team, finished fourth.
“I felt great today. I was excited to get going, and the race went exactly how I had planned it,” said Crawford. “I really responded to people cheering for me, and tried to feed off that energy. The crowd today was wonderful, and having my friends and family here to watch made the day even more special.”
Sunday Skate Races
Canada’s Milaine Theriault took the next major step on Sunday in her quest to get beck into top international racing form since giving birth to a baby boy this summer. The three-time Olympian from St. Quentin, N.B., was the fastest woman to whip around the five-kilometre track set out in the nordic area of CODA’s Canada Olympic Park in Calgary. The 30-year-old Theriault, who traditionally competes on the World Cup circuit with Canada’s Beckie Scott and Sara Renner, won her first gold medal since becoming a mom, at the Calgary stop of the Haywood NorAm Canada Cup with a time of 13 minutes 51.79 seconds.
“After a year off to have my baby, my goal for this season was to get back in shape to where I was before,” said Theriault whose partner Robin McKeever, is a guide for his brother, Brian, in disabled cross-country skiing. Brian and Robin captured two gold medals and one silver medal at the 2002 Paralympic Games. “I'm progressing much better than I thought I would have. By the end of this season, I want to be top-three at nationals so I can get back into international competition.”
Montreal’s Dasha Gaiazova was not far off the pace set by Theriault in the individual start, grabbing the silver medal, and reclaiming the yellow bib as the overall points leader, with a time of 13:54.62. Chandra Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., continued her sizzling start to the season, landing on the podium in consecutive days with a third-place finish (13:56.74).
Perianne Jones, of Almonte, Ont., continued to prove she is capable of competing with the top women on the continent. Jones won the junior division on Sunday, and was in eighth-spot overall.
Canada’s best male cross-country skiers had their sites set on another golden performance, this time in the 10-kilometre individual start. But Russia’s Ivan Babikov had other plans, capturing his second gold medal of the season, after handily winning the event with a time of 23:03.19. George Grey, of Rossland, B.C., was the next best skier, and top Canuck to cross the line, finishing 18.44 seconds behind Babikov after posting a time of 23:21.64. Gordon Jewett of Toronto finished third at 23:23.32.
“This is one of the fastest 10-kilometre courses I have ever been on, and it made for an exciting race. The time gaps for the top-10 guys was so small that each little boost of speed over the hills made the difference today, said Grey, who remains the yellow bib leader in the men’s division. “Its great to be wearing the yellow bib this early in the season, but the trick is to have it when we get to the trails later on in the year.”
Dave Nighbor, of North Bay, Ont., continues to be the top junior on the circuit. The 19-year-old won the junior division today, and finished 13th overall. Complete results of Sunday’s Haywood NorAm Canada Cup in Calgary can be found at http://www.foothillsnordic.ca/ . The next stop on the Haywood NorAm Canada Cup, the premiere development cross-country ski race series on the continent, is set for Kelowna, B.C., December 18-21, 2003.
Source: Cross Country Canada