10/15 km Classic – Sunday August 23
The NZ Winter Games opened today with the 15km Classic for men and the 10km Classic for women. Devon Kershaw led a Canadian sweep of the podium in the men’s 15-kilometer race. The leader of the men’s team clocked a time of 37 minutes 51.82 seconds. Ivan Babikov was second at 37:56.36, while Alex Harvey rounded out the men’s podium in third at 38:23.02.
“It was a hard day with fresh snow last night and grooming in advance of the start of the race,” said Dave Wood, team leader, National Ski Team. “The team has trained extremely hard since arriving here in New Zealand and I’m pleased to see they still put up solid efforts and shows we are on track.”
Ben Sim (AUS) come out cranking taking 4th place behind the three race favorites, all of whom have been on a World Cup podium. Sim was 58 seconds behind Kershaw, scoring career best FIS points of 35, and 19 seconds ahead of 5th placed Stefan Kuhn (CAN). Australia – New Zealand Continental Cup leader Thomas Diezig of Switzerland wasn’t feeling well and did not start.
New Zealand cross country skier Ben Koons moved closer to qualifying for the Winter Olympic team today finishing eighteenth amongst a highly competitive international field. The result awards him sufficient FIS points to continue his campaign for the Olympic team. Koons, who recently graduated from Dartmouth College, was the first New Zealand male to race in a World Cup event in 2005.
Sara Renner (CAN) also proved her summer training is on track by winning the women’s race with a time of 29:49.37. Renner was joined on the women’s podium by teammate Brittany Webster, who finished second in 29:49.37. Chisa Obayashi, of Japan, prevented the Canadian sweep in the women’s 10-kilometer race by finishing third (30:16.46).
Aimee Watson (AUS) paced the squad from down under, taking 7th place in the 10km, 3:40 behind the winner Renner. There was a bit of chaos at the start due to some absent starters and Aimee missed her start, however the jury decided to use her actual race time because of the confusion. KT Calder of New Zealand the ANC leader also was absent due to a recent cold.
New snow falling overnight made for an interesting morning for the wax technicians.
Skate Sprint – Monday August 24
Canada’s Drew Goldsack had the perfect start to his comeback season by winning gold in the men’s skate-ski sprint on Monday in New Zealand.
The Red Deer, Alta. native, who celebrated his 28th birthday yesterday, has been sidelined more than a year with an ankle injury. The 2006 Olympian, and another of Canada’s deep contingent of sprint skiers, fought his way through the head-to-head heats en route to the top step of the podium.
“It was a great day down under for me,” said Goldsack. “This isn’t only my first week back racing, but it is the first time on snow. To start it off with a win is excellence, but I have a long, hard battle ahead of me to completely recover from the surgery and reach my goal of qualifying for the Olympics. Today’s race was a sign that I’m on track.”
Goldsack was joined on the men’s podium by 20-year-old Julien Nury (CAN) and Gaudenz Flury (SUI).
Meanwhile, Canada’s Perianne Jones stomped some authority in the women’s skate-ski sprint. The 24-year-old, of Almonte, Ont., set the pace winning the qualification round and each of one of her heats to claim the gold medal and second straight golden sweep for Canadian athletes in New Zealand.
The Canadian women swept the podium with Calgary’s Shayla Swanson in second spot, followed by Brittany Webster, of Caledon, Ont., in third.
In the IPC races James Millar (AUS) had a great day, posting the fasting qualifying time in the standing category and then winning the A-final ahead of competitors from Canada and Japan. James was 4th in the 15km Classic yesterday. The other Aussie IPC cross country skier, Dominic Moneypenny also made it onto the podium today, finishing third in the sit-ski sprint final, and was 4th yesterday in the 10km event.
Canada’s Para-Nordic athletes were also in action on Monday. Lou Gibson, of Langley, B.C., finished second in the men’s sit-ski sprint, while Mark Arendz, of Springton, P.E.I., was second in the men’s standing category, and Jody Barber, of Smithers, B.C., was third in the women’s standing. Tyler Mosher, of Whistler, B.C., was second in the men’s classic sprint.
Sources: Cross-Country Canada, Australian National Team