Karl Saidla skis for XC Ottaswa – www.xcottawa.ca
It would not be surprising if, a few years from now, we wind up considering today as a turning point of sorts for the sport of cross country skiing in Canada and possibly North America. This would be the result of two major contributing factors: The performances of the North American skiers and also because it was such a great event from a ski fan’s point of view.
First, credit should be given to the athletes who made the day what it was: Beckie Scott and Sara Renner taking first and third. Those results speak for themselves. Other notable performances included Phil Widmer qualifying fourth and the other North Americans that made the top 30 and even a few others who came very close. This list includes names like Crawford, Theriault, Wagner, Crooks, Goldsack, Cook, Newell, Koos, Jeffries, Jones and Flora ( I apologize if I left anyone out). These people gave us all something to be excited about. The people who organized the event deserve a huge thanks. The whole weekend went exceptionally well from an organizational point of view. The weather, (-5C) and sunny could be said to have provided the icing on the cake. Together, these elements created a magnificent spectacle. There was fast and furious racing, an excellent race course and great crowd involvement.
As for the racing I will try to provide a synopsis of how the heats unfolded. From a general standpoint it was interesting to note some differences between the style of racing employed by the women relative to the men. In general, the women tended to keep the pace high, while the men’s heats, particularly later on, involved a fair bit of gamesmanship and less than top-level speed. Also, it appeared that the women’s races involved actually a bit more physical contact than the men’s. At various times spectators were witnesses to poles and skis being stepped on as well as women leaning on and pushing against each other to some degree.
In the women’s event the semi-final that included Scott, Renner and Bjoergen provided much excitement. Scott controlled the race from the front. A photo finish between Renner and Pedersen for second place proved to be too close to separate so five women went to the final. Bjoergen simply found herself too far behind too late in the race and was unable to overtake the three ahead of her for a spot in the final. This set the stage for the final that included both Scott and Renner. This time Scott was forced to make her way to the front on the second major climb. All the racers were still basically together coming into the home stretch but nobody was able to erase the small lead that Scott had created for herself. Second went to Kuenzel, with Renner taking third much to the delight of spectators. Henkel took 4th and Pedersen 5th. The promising Chandra Crawford wound up 10th, Wendy Wagner was 21st and Milaine Theriault was 25th.
In the men’s race an unfortunate uphill fall involving Trond Iversen and Thobias Fredriksson in the semi final resulted in neither one making it to the final. The final was essentially a battle between â€œbig gunsâ€ Tor Arne Hetland and Bjoern Lind, with Hetland edging Lind in the last meters of the race. Ove Vigen Hattestad of Norway took third, with Mikael Oestberg (on some special speed-skate style boots and bindings) fourth. The US men did very well with Newell in 11th, Cook in 12th, Koos in 14th. The Canadians had Sean Crooks in 25th, Phil Widmer in 26th, and Drew Goldsdack in 28th.