Malles, Val Venosta, ITAâ€”Alex Harvey added another chapter in the Canadian cross-country skiing history books after storming to a silver medal finish at the Nordic Junior World Championships on Monday in Malles, Val Venosta, Italy.
Last year the teenager from St-Ferreol les Neiges, Que. became the second Canadian ever to win a medal at the most prestigious event for junior cross-country skiing when he captured a bronze in the 10-kilometre skate race. Today, he becomes the first Canuck to win twice at the World Junior Championships after bolting around the 10-kilometre Italian track, which is loaded with gradual hills and super long downhills, in a time of 28 minutes 58.5 seconds in the classic-skiing discipline. Marie Josee-Pepin is the only other Canadian to win a World Junior cross-country ski medal when claimed the silver at the 1989 Championships.
â€œThis is such a great day. I knew it would be hard to contend for the podium because there are so many great classic skiers here, but I also knew what I was capable of doing so I am so happy to finish second,â€ said Harvey, who prefers skate-skiing over the classic. â€œI had fast skis today and I gave it everything I had until the end. Now I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do the rest of the week.â€
At just 19 years of age, the young Harvey is poised to follow the tracks of his father, Pierre Harvey, in the sport. The elder Harvey is arguably the best male cross-country skier the country has ever produced, winning three World Cup gold medals in the sport while going onto competing at two Olympic Winter Games in 1984 and 1988. Pierre Harvey also competed in two Olympic Summer Games in 1976 and 1980 in cycling.
â€œI have always been known as the son of Pierre and it is nice now that people are starting to recognize me by my first name,â€ said Harvey, whose father did not start skiing until after the junior age level. â€œMy father ended his Olympic journey in Canada in 1988 so I think it would be really special for me to begin mine at 21 years old in Canada as well in 2010. It would be great to get my first Olympic experience at a young age in front of my family and friends.â€
The younger Harvey’s development in the sport has included time on the Haywood NorAm Series in Canada, while also hitting the start line in selective World Cup events over the last two seasons as a member of the junior national program. He has also competed in the last four World Junior Championships.
â€œThis is an incredible performance,â€ said Dave Wood, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team. â€œAlex is a big talent and a guy that always performs when it counts. This is a great day.â€
Harvey finished eight seconds off the pace of Hans Christer Holund, of Norway, who set the winning time at 28:50.3. Tim Tscharnke, of Germany, was third at 29:09.5.
Said the winner Holund, “I can not believe it, that I’m Junior World Champion. Everything was tough, to race in this altitude and in the warm conditions. But the rest worked well, I had good skis, the wax was the right one and I was able to show my good form today. The victory today is something very special for me, because I have birthday. I couldn’t have a better present.”
USA's Noah Hoffman posted a strong result, crossing the line in 12th, just under a minute behind the victorious Holund. Hoffman won the Owl Creek Chase in Aspen, Colorado several weeks ago in impressive fashion, and is clearly not intimidated by the international competition. He was only 10 seconds out of 8th place.
Reid Pletcher (USA) was 46th +3:14.5, Max Treinen 59th and Reese Hanneman 92nd.
A young Norwegian also claimed the gold medal in the women’s five-kilometer classic race. Therese Johaug set the time to beat at 14:54.0. Johaug was joined on the podium by teammate, Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg in second (14:58.5), and Germany’s Lucia Anger who rounded out the women’s podium in third (15:05.5).
Rosie Brennan led the American women with an 18th place finish, just under a minute behind World Cup veteran and World Championship medalist Johaug. Ida Sargent and Sadie Bjornsen were close behind in 20th and 24th respectively. Alexa Turzian was the final American to race, taking 59th.
Said Johaug “I knew that the others would chase me. That’s why I tried to use the start bib number 1 as best as I can because I knew that the tracks would be in the best condition. It was not easy because Ingvild and also Lucia were skiing well. I was aware of this during the race. I’m very happy about my gold medal.”
Seven other Canadians hit the start line in Italy along with with 97 of the top young male skiers and 79 of the best junior women. In men’s action, Frederic Touchette, of St-Ferreol les Neiges, Que., finished 17th (30:13.8), while Calgary’s Kevin Sandau was 21st (30:26.3), and Len Valjas, of Thunder Bay, Ont., was 28th (31:00.9).
Meanwhile Alysson Marshall, of Salmon Arm, B.C., led the Canadian women in 32nd spot with a time of 16:04.7. Heidi Widmer, of Banff, Alta., was 49th (16:31.2), while Calgary’s Marlis Kromm was 53rd (16:43.4) and Stephanie Drolet, of Mt. Tremblant, Que., was 68th (17:20.5).