GeneralNewsTeam 12: Canada

Avatar Kieran JonesNovember 7, 2011

Canada

2009-2010 Nations Cup Ranking: 11th (1161 pts)

2010-2011 Nations Cup Ranking: 12th (1783 pts)

Men: 8th (1525 pts)

Women: 14th (258 pts)

2011/2012 World Cup Team

Men

Devon Kershaw

Alex Harvey

Ivan Babikov

Len Valjas

Women

Chandra Crawford

Perianne Jones

Dasha Gaiazova

 

Alex Harvey (R) and Devon Kershaw (L) celebrating their World Championships gold.

What You May Have Missed Last Season

The Canadian men have become a powerhouse on the world stage. Full stop.

Certain FasterSkier staffers could easily be accused of over-selling the above point, but if you take one look at the World Cup mens’ Overall ranking, you will understand.

Devon Kershaw finished 8th. His younger teammate Alex Harvey was 10th. For comparison, just one other country (Sweden) pulled off the same feat.

Perhaps most importantly, Kershaw recorded his first-ever World Cup victory. It may have taken him seven seasons to get it, and FIS may consider it a ‘stage victory’ rather than a full on win, but for everyone else, Kershaw has stood on the top step, and is now a truly elite skier.

Not to be out-done, Alex Harvey popped over to Under-23 World Championships for a one-race guest appearance in the 30 k pursuit. After a thrilling battle with young Russian phenom Evgeniy Belov, Harvey put the boots to his younger competition in a Petter Northug-esque move in the final kilometer.

While the Canadian men were busy taking the Tour de Ski and Oslo World Championships by storm, the Canadian women were very quietly surprising people in the sprint relay format.

Gaiazova and Crawford paired up for the skate team sprint in Dusseldorf, and after taking advantage of a humiliating Slovenian misstep in the final stretch, picked up a bronze medal and did some interesting medal-presentation dancing. They also formed a duo in the skate sprint in Liberec, Czech Republic, finishing fifth.

At World Championships, Perianne Jones supplanted Crawford, and she and Gaiazova were a surprise 6th place in the classic team sprint. Jones has become somewhat of a specialist in the World Championship classic team sprint – in 2009 she teamed up with Sara Renner to finish 6th as well.

And speaking of team sprints, we almost forgot to mention this little race…

What You Need To Know for This Season

If you do one thing this winter, watch the Tour de Ski. Kershaw and Harvey proved last season that they are more than just contenders in the FIS centerpiece event. Both can sprint in either technique, have the guts to hang tough in distance races, and when you add in Babikov, the Canadians have a medal threat every single day.

Babikov (l) and Harvey in the lead pack at World Championships

Across the board, the Canadians have improved during the training season, at least according to Justin Wadsworth, avoiding serious injury, sickness, and logging some serious training and travel to places like Hawaii, New Zealand, and Alaska.

While the Canadians have a lot going for them on the snow, during this off-season they came up with some intriguing off-course activities as well.

The Dasha Gaiazova controversy has been well-documented, Chandra Crawford seems to have hosted an endless amount of Fast and Female events, Devon Kershaw has done a stint as a Steve Prefontaine look-alike, Ivan Babikov went on Wipeout Canada, Len Valjas gave a presentation, Perianne Jones can probably do more chin-ups with weights than you can, and to cap it all off, Alex Harvey is such a superstar in La Belle Province that he is now part of an anti-drinking and driving campaign.

Several Canadian mainstays opted for retirement at the end of the season. George Grey, who has been with the team for over a decade and through some of the best moments in Canadian skiing opted to step aside, after being ridiculously happy for his World Championship-winning teammates. Same with sprinter Stefan Kuhn, who didn’t get far from the ski world, stepping right into a coaching role with the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA).

Who You Should Watch

Kevin Sandau leading Japan's Yuma Yoshida at the end of the 50 k classic at U.S. Distance Nationals last March.

While Canadian sprinters seem to grow on trees, it’s been a little while since a pure distance skier has generated the kind of excitement and results that Kevin Sandau has put together.

But get excited, because Sandau was good domestically when it comes to distance skiing, including two medals at Canadian Nationals, and an impressive second place at U.S. Distance Nationals in Sun Valley, Utah, behind Kris Freeman.

He also finished 5th in the 15 k skate at Under-23 World Championships, his best international result to date. The 23 year old is getting an early shot to prove that his speed will stick overseas, as he is part of the three-man convergence squad that will travel overseas for the first few World Cups.

While nothing is set in stone yet, Sandau may be given a shot on the relay team, which, with the three men currently on the squad, has a chance to do some real damage.

Also, he has some good cameo shots with some impressive World Cup skiers – no comment on the photoshop skills.

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Kieran Jones

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