Beitostolen, Norway was not the only site of high level FIS races this past weekend. Many top World Cup athletes also competed in Muonio, Finland, and Bruksvallarna, Sweden.
While some of the Canadian National Team remained in Canada, Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey, Graham Nishikawa, and Chandra Crawford traveled to Europe in preparation for next week’s World Cup opener in Norway. Kershaw had an up and down weekend, barely qualifying for the heats in the classic sprint, and then getting eliminated in his quarterfinal, before winning the 15km freestyle on Sunday.
Kershaw’s time of 29:59 was six seconds faster than runner up Johan Olsson’s (SWE) in the 15km. Last season Olsson made four World Cup podium appearances, including a victory, so Kershaw’s win bodes well. Swedish veteran Anders Soedergren finished third, and sprinter Emil Joensson (SWE) was a surprising 4th. In addition to the full Swedish squad, the Czech national team also competed, led by Jiri Magal in 6th.
Harvey and Nishikawa finished 14th and 15th respectively, separated by just 1.4 seconds.
Charlotte Kalla led a Swedish sweep of the podium in the women’s 10km freestyle. She cruised to a 29 second victory over Anna Haag. Anna Olsson was third.
In Saturday’s sprint, Kershaw ended up in 27th. Harvey and Nishikawa both failed to qualify and ended up in 35th and 39th. Joensson won the men’s race, and defending World Cup Champion, Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) was the women’s winner.
Kowalczyk was 5th in the distance race, nearly a minute behind Kalla.
Chandra Crawford (SWE) raced for the first time in a year and a half, and finished 20th. Crawford missed last season due to compartment syndrome. She has historically had her best races in skating, and did not have her best performance. But considering the challenges of the last year, this is a solid performance.
XC Oregon’s Kristina Strandberg (SWE) competed as well, taking 15th in the sprint and 23rd in the 10km.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.