With a squad consisting of Alex Harvey, Devon Kershaw, Ivan Babikov, and Len Valjas, Canadian Head Coach Justin Wadsworth thought his team would have a chance at its second World Championship medal in three days in Friday’s men’s relay. But those chances have just taken a hit.
According to Wadsworth, Harvey, who won gold with Kershaw in Wednesday’s team sprint, will skip the relay, worn out by a tough race and a long day in the spotlight in Oslo.
“I personally think he should do the relay, but I also respect his knowledge of how his body is, and what he needs to do,” Wadsworth said. “So, we went ahead and just made that decision to sit him out tomorrow.”
Harvey, who didn’t answer a call placed to his European cell phone, is in the best shape of his life, coming off a second-place in a World Cup sprint two weeks ago, in addition to his World Championship medal. With the 22-year-old in the race, Wadsworth said he thought his team had “a good shot at a medal.”
Realistically, though, the Canadians would have faced an uphill battle. With Kershaw, Harvey, Babikov, and Grey comprising their team, they finished seventh at the Olympics last year. This season, Grey is coming off knee surgery and the birth of his first child, and is far from fit, and Wadsworth said he’d planned to substitute rookie Len Valjas—who is racing well, but not at Grey’s level from last year.
“We probably would have put Alex out first, and Devon second, and Ivan third,” Wadsworth said. “We probably would have put Lenny fourth, and hopefully had a big lead with a bunch of other teams that would be fighting for medals.”
Without Harvey, Wadsworth is now forced to start both Valjas and Grey, along with Babikov and Kershaw.
“With this change now, I think it takes our chances down a bit, for sure,” Wadsworth said.
Kershaw also had a long day Wednesday, with the race and subsequent medals ceremony; his phone was turned off, but Wadsworth said that Kershaw was still planning on racing.
“Devon’s always decided that he wanted to race this relay no matter what the team is…because, really, it was important to him,” Wadsworth said. “And the fact that it’s here in Norway, and probably one of the biggest races of the championships. So, he’s always been committed to racing it.”
–Chelsea Little and Topher Sabot contributed reporting.
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.