Sara Renner and Beckie Scott capped off an incredible series of World Cups by winning a silver medal in today’s sprint relay. In fact, the Canadian duo narrowly missed the gold as Renner was only overtaken by Viola Bauer in the last metres of the race. The Canadians appeared to be in control from very early on, with Scott repeatedly stringing out the field in the latter parts of the course and Renner clearly pushing the pace as well. Given that Scott actually opened a gap on a couple of occasions as she came in for the exchange, some onlookers wondered if it might have been a better decision to have her ski the anchor leg. On the other hand, given the way that Sara Renner double-poled her way to a bronze medal in the finishing stretch of the World Championships last year, one can understand the rationale for setting it up the way they did. In any case, the bottom line is that a World Cup silver medal is nothing to sneeze at. Also not to be sneezed at is the fact that the Canadians actually managed to get two women’s teams into the final with Chandra Crawford and Milaine Theriault making up the second team.
The men’s final was even closer than the women’s. The Swedish team of Thobias Fredriksson and Bjoern Lind made numerous aggressive moves to stretch the field, and notably the hotly pursuing Norwegian team of Eldar Roenning and Jens Arne Svartedal to the limit. On the last trip of the major climb of the course Fredriksson put on a phenomenal burst of high-tempo diagonal stride but Roening was able to keep himself in the race. This set things up for a double poling showdown on the long gradual uphill stretch to the finish. With the crowd going crazy, Roening and Fredriksson double poled side by side into the last metres of the race, with Roening squeezing out the victory in the last five metres.
The number one American team of Andy Newell and Torin Koos skied strongly but were not quite able to match the pace in the later portions of the race. One would think that given more opportunities it is likely that these boys will soon be making an impression. The Canadian men had a number of teams that threatened to take a spot in the final. Two of them (Widmer-Crooks and Goldsack-Grey) placed 6th in their respective semi-finals. Once again it would seem fair to say that good things lie ahead for these guys.
All in all, today was a very fitting end to some fantastic Canadian World Cups. Everything came together just about right. The weather, though cold for some of the races also tended to be sunny, taking away from the chill factor significantly. All of the courses were in fantastic shape, as were many Canadian an US skiers who showed that they belong with the best of the best. All the athletes appeared to agree that the atmosphere and the organization were top notch. Having special cultural events like the winter rodeo at the stadium in Canmore between the races on Saturday added a special touch. There is a rumour that World Cups are coming back to Canada in about two years. We should all keep our fingers crossed because if they turn out anything like these ones have we are in for a treat.
Karl Saidla skis for XC Ottawa – www.xcottawa.ca