WHISTLER, B.C. â€” Canada’s Phil Widmer and Stefan Kuhn hope the opening day of the Haywood Ski Nationals is an indication of what’s to come at Whistler Olympic Park in two years when the world arrives for the big show. The Canadian duo teamed up to win a gold medal in the men’s classic team sprint competition in their first ever competition on the nation’s newest Olympic cross-country ski venue near Whistler, B.C.
â€œThe whole vibe here is all about the Olympics and everyone is discussing the trails,â€ said Kuhn, who hails from Canmore, Alta. â€œI definitely thought it was cool that we’ll be doing this in two years here for the real show.â€
The team sprints consist of each athlete completing three trips on the sprint course. Athletes tag their teammate between each leg.
The APU team of Tyson Flaharty and Bart Deugel was the top American finsiher in the men's race, finishing 5th. Andy Newell teamed up with fellow Stratton Mountain School alum Patrick O'Brien – the duo took the 8th spot. James Southam and Anders Haugen, also racing in APU colors, finished 10th.
Kuhn, who claimed three silver medals this year while racing on the Haywood NorAm Series amongst his stops on the World Cup, powered his team to the top of the podium while skiing the anchor leg. With the 24-year-old Widmer handing off to him in fourth spot after crashing in his final trip around the new Olympic sprint course, Kuhn took control on a course that is suited to his strengths.
â€œThe course suits me perfectly with long diagonal uphills where you have to stride well and the steep downhills with sharp corners which I also like,â€ said Kuhn. â€œWe had great skis. It was a great team effort and an excellent day.â€
Widmer, of Banff, Alta., who competed for Canada at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games, racked up four medals including two gold and two silver on the Haywood NorAm race series this season.
â€œIt was a beautiful course that was in great condition and I’m looking forward to racing more on it over the next couple of years,â€ said Widmer, who is the overall points leader in the men’s Teck Cominco sprint series. â€œIt has everything you look for as a skier with good climbs, steep downhills and a fast finish.â€
Canadian athletes also grabbed the silver and bronze medal positions on the podium. Chris Jefferies, of Chelsea, Que., teamed up with Toronto’s Gord Jewett to win the silver, while Calgary’s Brent McMurtry and Robin McKeever, of Canmore, Alta., finished third.
Meanwhile, two Americans made the trip north of the border and stole the first national crown in women’s racing. Laura Valaas and Kikkan Randall joined forces to win gold in a hard-fought women’s race over Perianne Jones, of Almonte, Ont., who rejoined her junior teammate, Devon Spika, of Ottawa.
â€œIt was a great day and really cool to get on the Olympic venue,â€ said Jones of her silver medal performance. â€œI always enjoy racing at nationals, but because it is on the Olympic trails, it is even better. After my first time on the trails, the excitement to race here in 2010 is definitely building.â€
No other American teams competed in the women's race.
Source: Cross-Country Canada