CALGARY â€” With just over two years remaining until the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the world’s best cross-country skiers will cut their first Canadian tracks on the trail to Vancouver when the gun blasts to kick off the Alberta World Cup in Canmore, Alta., January 22-26, 2008.
Canada’s top cross-country skiers will host nearly 200 athletes, representing 21 countries, for four World Cup races at the recently renovated Canmore Nordic Centre. In addition to lining up beside the world’s best in the sport, athletes will have to contend with one of the most challenging courses on the World Cup circuit, which rolls through Alberta’s picturesque Rocky Mountains. Athletes will compete in the following disciplines: pursuit; two sprint races (classic and skate-skiing technique); and a skate interval start event.
â€œAs the second of our three-event commitment leading to Vancouver 2010, we are delighted that the Alberta World Cup 2008 races in Canmore mark the beginning of two exciting years of the world’s best cross-country skiers battling for gold on Canadian snow,â€ said Robert Hogg, chief of competition, Alberta World Cup, whose organizing committee contributed to staging one of the most successful winter sport World Cup events in Canada in 2005 where more than 20,000 spectators watched the top nordic skiers compete in a series of races in Canmore, Alta. and Vernon, B.C. â€œWe encourage all Canadians to come and watch this exciting winter sport at its best.â€
The 2008 Alberta World Cup will mark only the third time since the 1988 Olympic Winter Games that the Olympic venue in Canmore, Alta. has hosted a World Cup cross-country ski race — the only other two times came in 1989 and in 2005.
â€œThis World Cup race in Canada will not only help give our team the competitive advantage they need to reach the top of the podium, but will also provide many of our young athletes the opportunity to gain some much-needed World Cup experience,â€ said Al Maddox, executive director, Cross Country Canada, who added the national sport body’s long-term partners, Haywood Securities and AltaGas Income Trust provided the sponsorship backing needed to bring the World Cup back to Canada. â€œHosting World Cups at home is a critical component to growing our sport across the country, and we hope Canadians will join us in what promises to be an entertaining week of racing.â€
The Alberta Centennial World Cup in 2005 was the beginning of what led to a breakout season for Canada’s men’s and women’s cross-country skiers. The season culminated with Chandra Crawford and Sara Renner winning Olympic gold and silver medals respectively, while Devon Kershaw became the first Canadian male in more than a decade to win a World Cup medal when he won a bronze in Sweden.
Crawford and Renner, both of Canmore, Alta., along with Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., will headline a group of 33 Canadian athletes, including 14 women and 19 men who will suit up for the 2008 nordic spectacle.
Joining the Canadian women will be: Amanda Ammar, of Onoway, Alta.; Tasha Betcherman, of Thunder Bay, Ont.; Jacqui Benson, of Prince George, B.C.; Kate Brennan, of Pakenham, Ont.; Sarah Daitch, of Fort Smith, N.W.T.; Dasha Gaiazova, of Montreal; Brooke Gosling, of Calgary; Rhonda Jewett, of Calgary; Perianne Jones, of Almonte, Ont.; Karl Mika, of Duntroon, Ont.; Shayla Swanson, of Calgary; and Edmonton’s Madeleine Williams.
Kershaw will lead a diverse group of Canucks with Olympic, World Championship and World Cup experience that will compete in the men’s distance and sprint races including: Mike Argue, of Yellowknife, N.W.T.; Sean Crooks, of Thunder Bay, Ont.; Drew Goldsack, of Red Deer, Alta.; George Grey, of Rossland, B.C.; Chris Jeffries, of Chelsea, Que.; Gord Jewett, of Toronto; Stefan Kuhn, of Canmore, Alta.; Brian McKeever, of Canmore, Alta.; Robin McKeever, of Canmore, Alta.; Brent McMurtry, of Calgary; Ian Murray, of South Harbour, N.S.; Skeets Morel, of Parry Sound, Ont.; David Nighbor, of North Bay, Ont.; Graham Nishikawa, of Whitehorse, Yukon; Dan Roycroft, of Port Sydney, Ont.; Chris Werrell, of Burns Lake, B.C.; Phil Widmer, of Banff, Alta.; and Jesse Winter, of North Bay, Ont.
â€œThis is a unique group of athletes that has been making significant progress, and continues to push harder each day in an effort to climb closer to putting the maple leaf on the podium,â€ said Tom Holland, director of high-performance, Cross Country Canada, who added Sara Renner will be making her second World Cup start since taking a year off to have a baby. â€œOur team has been dreaming of this event for two years, and we are looking forward to showcasing our sport to all Canadians.â€
While elite cross-country skiing will headline the week-long Nordic festival, the party will continue into the streets of Canmore. Families will be able to take advantage of a series of activities including face painting, skating, dancing on the streets, and nightly music on the Stampede Stage. Medal presentation ceremonies will also take place each evening on race days.
Cross Country Canada is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada. Its 45,000 members are athletes, coaches and officials, including members of the Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team and Canadian Disabled Cross-Country Ski Team. Cross-country skiing is Canada’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually.