Source: Cross Country Canada
-Canadian nordic skiers rise to occasion, Sovereign Lake delivers world-class product-
Vernon, B.C.-Tired of living out of their suitcases and watching foreign television, Beckie Scott and Sara Renner began a campaign three years ago to bring a World Cup cross-country skiing event to their home country.
On Sunday, the Canadian women stepped to the start line of a World Cup on home snow, and three hours later controlled the podium, finishing first and third respectively in the women’s sprint races at the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre near Vernon, B.C.
“We just wanted to race at home, but this definitely exceeds any expectations we had while hosting a World Cup,” said Scott, who captured her first World Cup gold medal in her 11-year career. “I have finished second and third so many times, but to be able to win gold, and do it at home is absolutely amazing and a dream weekend.”
Scott, of Vermilion, Alta. began her stellar weekend by winning a silver medal in the women’s 15-kilometre pursuit on Saturday.
“I am feeling the strongest I ever have in my career, and I have trained so hard throughout the summer preparing for these races. I was just curious to see where it stood against some international competition,” said Scott. “I was focused more on the pursuit race this weekend, but today’s result shows my training has prepared me for most disciplines.”
Equally amazing to Scott’s result was the performance of 29-year-old Sara Renner sprinting to her first World Cup medal. Solidifying her stance as one of the strongest sprinters in the world, Renner claimed the bronze medal in the women’s competition in front of the thousands of boisterous Canadian fans who lined the sprint course at the Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre.
“My goal today in the final was simple – stick with Beckie,” laughed Renner, who also posted her best ever pursuit result on Saturday when she finished 12th. “In fact – that has been my strategy throughout my career so it seems to work. This is such an amazing day, and I think even more rewarding than finishing third at the World Championships last year because it was in Canada.”
While Beckie Scott led each of her heats into the final, Renner, of Canmore, Alta., had some tense moments in the stadium waiting for the results from her semifinal heat, crossing the line dead even in second spot with Norway’s Hilde Pedersen. The crowd erupted after hearing both athletes would advance to the big dance, making it a five-woman final.
“Thankfully I have big feet,” said Renner of the photo finish. “There was nothing I could do. I gave it my best, and I think when it is that close, it is only right that both athletes move on.”
The top 30 athletes during the qualification round move into the head-to-head heats, which pit six athletes racing simultaneously around a 1.3 kilometre course. The top two in each heat advance to the next round, culminating with the final four athletes.
Germany’s Claudia Kuenzel was sandwiched between the two Canadian speed queens on the podium in the silver medal position.
Hosting a World Cup on Canadian snow provided an opportunity to gain some World Cup experience for a number of young Canadian athletes who rose to the occasion.
In the women’s event, 22-year-old Chandra Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., qualified with the 11th fastest time, and moved into the semifinals before stumbling while attempting to make a move down one of the steepest hills on the 1.3 kilometre track embedded in the rolling mountain terrain of Silver Star National Park. The young Canuck settled for 10th spot. Milaine Theriault, of St. Quentin, N.B. also continued her remarkable comeback against the world’s top athletes. Battling a career-threatening injury and raising a two year old son, the two-time Olympian Theriault qualified for the heats and finished 25th.
Three Canadian men also qualified for the finals. Competing in his first World Cup race, Phil Widmer, of Banff, Alta., was the fourth fastest in the qualification round, but was eliminated in his opening heat after an Italian skier stepped on his ski and knocked him out of the running. The 22-year-old settled for 26th spot. Another 22-year-old World Cup rookie, Sean Crooks, of Thunder Bay, Ont., led the Canadian men in 25th place, while Drew Goldsack, 24, of Red Deer, Alta., was 28th.
“This race today for Canada was way more than just Beckie and I,” said Sara Renner. “It is such a testament to the organizing committee for allowing us to race here, and give so many aspiring Canadian athletes the opportunity to race World Cups who would traditionally be sitting at home and racing NorAms. The performance by these young athletes was incredible today.”
The community of Sovereign Lake Nordic Club, quietly located just over 20 kilometres north of downtown Vernon, came alive and delivered a world-class product and party at the first Cross-Country Skiing World Cup in Canada since 1994. Nearly 10,000 spectators lined the World Cup course over the two days including more than 600 volunteers.
“The Sovereign Lake group did such a tremendous job all week and made Canada proud,” said Beckie Scott. “It was so nice to be able to come to the stadium and hear the music playing loud, lots of kids around watching their heroes and just seeing everyone so happy to be here.”
The Canadian squad now heads east down the Trans-Canada Highway for three more World Cup races at the Canmore Nordic Centre, December 15-18, 2005. Canmore is the home base for Cross Country Canada and the national team.
Top-4 Women’s Results:
1.Beckie Scott, Vermilion, Alta.; 2. Claudia Kuenzel, GER; 3. Sara Renner, Canmore, Alta.; 4. Manuela Henkel, GER.
10. Chandra Crawford, Canmore, Alta.; 25. Milaine Theriault, St. Quentin, N.B.; 34. Perianne Jones, Almonte, Ont.; 37. Tara Whitten, Edmonton; 41. Shayla Swanson, Calgary; 45. Christine Bisson, CAN; 51. Tasha Betcherman, CAN; 52. Margret Scallion, CAN; 55. Kerrie Fabius.
Top-4 Men’s Results:
1.Tor Arne Hetland, NOR; 2. Bjoern Lind, SWE; 3. Ola Vigen Hattestad, NOR; 4. Mikael Oestberg, SWE.
25. Sean Crooks, Thunder Bay, Ont; 26. Phil Widmer, Banff, Alta.; 28. Drew Goldsack, Red Deer, Alta.; 34. Chris Jeffries, Chelsea, Que.; 51. Kit Richmond, CAN; 52. Erik Carelton, CAN; 54. Brian McKeever, Canmore, Alta.; 57. Ian Murray, CAN; 58. Mike Argue, CAN; 59. Graham Nishikawa, CAN.