The World Championships for Nordic Skiing are held every 2 years and the level of competition and the atmosphere at these events is similar to the Olympics. This year, racing in the World Championships on the Holmenkollen trails in Oslo, Norway is an experience that I will never forget. I have been to quite a few big international ski races in the past few years, but nothing compares to the frenzy in Oslo during these Championships. The bottom line is, Norway loves cross country skiing.
On the morning of my sprint race, I could see thousands of fans trying to make their way to the race stadium many hours before the event. There were so many people that it was like rush hour traffic, or a river of humans, on all of the walking paths. Even during my warm-up, the fans were so ridiculously loud that it was hard to keep skiing slowly and not get too pumped up.
I was very happy with my qualifier considering how tough the sprint course was and the high level of competitors I was up against. I qualified 21st and felt confident coming into the heats. My quarter final got off to a really bad start. Just after the gun went off, my poles got caught in the starting gate and the unthinkable happened……..I crashed right onto my face. I got up as fast as possible and I tried not to panic as I calmly accelerated to try to catch up to Petter Northug and the rest of the guys. It’s only a 3 minute race, but somehow, I managed to catch the group and even started to pass a few of the guys. I finished the heat in 3rd place, a fraction of a second behind Northug and Modin. Unfortunately, my heat was not as fast as the others and I didn’t move through to the semis as a “lucky loser”. It was really unfortunate that I took a spill right at the start. I really felt strong and I wish I could have conserved some of the energy that I used to catch up, for the final straight. My final position was 15th. I am extremely happy with this result, to finish in the top 15 at the World Champs is a dream come true.
Later in the week I was informed by my coaches that I would be competing the 15km classic and the 4x10km team relay. The 15km race was only my 5th distance race of the year for me, as I had been focusing more on sprints. I paced the race a little bit too much, starting way too slowly. I felt really strong near the end of the course. Too strong – I had too much energy (and not enough kilometers) left. This race was an interval start, where skiers start individually every 30 seconds, like a time trial. I crossed the finish line in first place and had the honour of being the race leader for just over a minute, before another racer beat my time. With a better race strategy for pacing, next time, I should be able to improve on my 48th place finish.
The Team Relay was one of the most memorable races for me, ever. I was honoured to share this experience with my teammates Stef, Ivan and George. I have never seen so many fans packed around the 5km course. There must have been 100,000 fans, standing 15 deep. Since we were missing two of our top guys, our team was not in contention with the leaders. That didn’t matter for the fans; they cheered just as hard for the leaders of the race as they did for the slower teams. The noise level was comparable to a rock concert and it inspired you to ski harder. We had a great USA/Canada battle out on the course, and in the end the Canucks came out on top! Our team finished in a respectable 12th place. All four of us were so proud to represent Canada at one of the biggest Team Relay races in the world.
|George Grey anchoring in his last team relay ever!
On March 2nd 2011, Alex and Devon made history by winning the first ever World Championship gold in the team sprint. I was so excited to be there cheering them on and celebrating with them after the race on this historic day!!!