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.
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Nat Herz is an Alaska-based journalist who moonlights for FasterSkier as an occasional reporter and podcast host. He was FasterSkier's full-time reporter in 2010 and 2011.
March 3, 2011 at 3:18 pm
I find it hard not to consider this move selfish. The past few years Alex has been one of the weaker legs on the relay team until Olympics last year and this year. Now when he is in the position of being arguably the best skier on the team he opts to rest for the individual fifty, destroying the chances of the relay team and the hopes of the other relay members. I can only imagine how devastating this would be for not only the other members of the team including world cup veterans but to the hopes of their Canadian fans.
March 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm
Well Babikov doesn’t seem happy about it. From his twitter:
“One of us making the biggest mistake of his life today… and I lost all the respect for that person”
There goes the team spirit…
March 3, 2011 at 5:59 pm
If no Olympics to prepare for then why not leave yourself totally spent by being a part of the World Championship relay team…. it seems odd
March 3, 2011 at 8:57 pm
It seems to me that for most of these athletes, World Championships are almost as important as the Olympics. A legitimate shot at a World’s medal for Harvey in the 50k is more important to him than an outside shot at a top-5 in the relay. Makes sense to me.
March 3, 2011 at 9:35 pm
The team should also consider Alex Harvey’s interests and not put itself above the needs of one its members.
Don’t pin it all on Alex. He doesn’t need to make the front page of a tabloid.
March 3, 2011 at 10:58 pm
Alex! Alex! I totally agree with “Confused”… I am signing for all the words! He used up the team when he needed and now – he is by himself! he is the best! good luck!
Of course – if Alex decided to race for top 6 – he would make the sixth spot – looks like he does not want to win the relay! Alex does not trust his team friends – if he considers them friends any more after this – he want to be on the front pages of breaking news! selfish kid! babs – was right! GOOD LUCK TEAM!
March 3, 2011 at 11:45 pm
I`m really surprised i considered Canada as one of 5-6 nations with a very good chance at the gold, not so anymore do.
And well i have always seen the relay as the most prestigious event of any championship since it shows witch nation that has the best overall team. But maybe that is not the same everywhere.
And as some of the other posters have said this got to make for a tense atmosphere in the team. I mean i could understand it if he was part of a team like Petra Majdič or Justina Kowalcyk were they have no chance at a medal but thats not so with Canada. That said both Majdič and Kowalcyk did race for there teams.
March 4, 2011 at 1:46 am
Babikov’s frustration is understandable, but both he and grey are clearly not in top form right now. Medalling in the relay requires 4 skiers skiing well, not 2. This is the right decision for Harvey, and of course all will be forgiven if he does medal in the 50k.
March 4, 2011 at 6:46 am
I want as much as anybody for Canada to win a relay gold medal – it WILL happen, I’m certain of it, just not now. People be realistic here! Look at the other team line-ups? If Alex were to participate in the relay, we’d have 3 strong legs and would be up against 3 teams with 4 solid legs: Germany, Sweden and Norway. Russia is more of a questionmark. Realistic chance of top 5? Yes. Probability of winning? Very low.
Sweden and Norway are going to go out as hard as they can on the classic legs. Devon would hold his own, but would have his work cut-out for him, unless the other teams screw-up their wax-jobs. If Alex were to ski, he too would have his hands full keeping up with classic specialtists like Olsson and Rönning. Ivan can ski a solid leg, but isn’t a sprinter and we’re lacking a fourth person who can both hang-on (for dear life) and has an explosive finish in skating, if we’re using our aces in the classic legs.
Face it, a relay win is not in the cards for us this year. Alex should go for it. He’s brave enough to make a ballsy decision like that – that’s what champions do!
As I’ve mentioned before Canada is no longer a participating nation, we’re a CONTENDER nation, so let’s play smart. For a team as good as ours, with the results we’ve had the last couple of years, a missed opportunity at a 5th place in the relay would go relatively unnoticed.
If Alex is confident, we should give him our FULL SUPPORT. I’m confident he will do us proud on Sunday, despite the end result! He is going to have his work cut-out – medalling will mean he’ll have to break free from the pack and hold them off, something that far too few skiers are brave enough to do full heartedly these days. It requires a true fighter. Alex is stepping up to the plate.
March 4, 2011 at 6:14 pm
thank you nitram i agree with you 100%
There are some pretty lame comments on here. I hope you folks watched the 4 x10 today and got a sense of how unrealistic this was for a team medal…
March 4, 2011 at 6:23 pm
BTW for all the stadium skiers out there, it took Rickardson 8 minutes to explode the pack and crack it some more, on the first lap Canada lost 2 minutes plus on the first wave…