Whistler, British Columbia – Another race, another record. The Canadian men’s cross-country team upped the ante once again, setting the third new mark for best Canadian men’s finish at the Olympics for the third time in the past 10 days.
Ivan Babikov bettered Pierre Harvey’s 14th in ’88 with his 8th in the 15km. He then placed 5th in the pursuit, and now the team sprint of duo of Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey did him one better, placing 4th in a photo finish with Kazakhstan.
“Our expectations are super high all the time,” said an ecstatic Kershaw after the race. “We believed we could do it, but it is great to give the hometown crowd a good show.”
Today’s result only increases the hopes for the 4x10km relay on Thursday.
“We are definitely skiing better than many people thought,” he added.
Kershaw was not even guaranteed a spot on the sprint relay team after the pursuit. Harvey teamed with George Grey to finish on the podium at the World Cup races here a year ago, and Grey had a career-best 8th place finish in the pursuit.
Grey will get his chance as he and Babikov join Kershaw and Harvey in the relay.
“If we can ski as fast as we did in the pursuit, I think something good is coming,” said Harvey.
And in Kershaw’s mind, the relay is the premier event.
“The relay itself is the marquee event of cross-country skiing…There are 8-10 teams that are extremely solid for the relay, so we have been skiing better and better, but we do have our work cut out for us, and we can’t rest on our laurels. It is going to be tough.”
The weather is finally supposed to turn, and conditions should be nasty, an advantage for the Canadians according to Harvey.
“I am confident that our wax techs will be on it. It hasn’t been to hard yet [the conditions], but when it gets hard we could pull a rabbit out of our hat.”
Good skis have been critical all week. “Our wax techs have been phenomenal so far,” added Kershaw. “A big thanks to them!”
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.