For the better part of the last three months, the Canadians, like many national ski teams, have spent a lot of time together. Fortunately for the three men currently on the World Cup circuit, they seem to get along pretty well.
Self-dubbed the “3 Amigos” on Twitter, Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey and Lenny Valjas spend much of their free time goofing around and posting pictures of their collective shenanigans while traveling Europe.
They must fit in some rest because when it comes down to it, this crew knows how to land on the podium, or at least come close. Canadian national team coach Justin Wadsworth described it as a streak, and he was happy to report it still stood unbroken on Thursday.
For the second World Cup race in a row, Kershaw pulled off third. Nearly two weeks ago in Otepää, Estonia, he captured bronze in the 15 k classic. Thursday in Moscow, Kershaw tied a personal best on the World Cup, placing third in a freestyle sprint.
Harvey tied his second-best result of the season, finishing ninth in the 1.5 k freestyle sprint in downtown Moscow. He was seventh in the qualifier after Kershaw, who posted the fastest qualifying time of the day. It was the first time Kershaw had done so since a World Cup sprint in 2008.
Coming off a sickness, Valjas qualified in 23rd and went on to place 12th. Two of three Canadian women also made it to the rounds: Moscow native Dasha Gaiazova posted the 16th fastest qualifying time and finished 22nd, and Perianne Jones qualified in 20th and finished 24th. Chandra Crawford missed qualifying by 2.17 seconds.
“It’s just really fun to be a Canadian ski racer right now,” Kershaw said in a phone interview on Thursday.
After Kershaw won his quarterfinal by 0.7 seconds, Harvey placed second in his despite having the bottom of his pole sliced off by another skier. In the lead until that point, he free skated until a Canadian staff member handed him a replacement shortly after.
Valjas hovered around first or second for most of his quarterfinal, and stayed with Eirik Brandsdal (NOR), who charged ahead late, to move on in the heats.
With three men in the semifinals, Harvey wrote that he and Kershaw were careful not to get in each other’s way. The two Canadians in the first semifinal, they moved to the front of the pack early, with Kershaw in first and Harvey second. Kershaw went on to pick up the pace and finished second to Teodor Peterson in the semifinal, and Harvey was fifth.
“I think the extra energy I had to give in the quarters to reposition myself after the broken pole cost me a bit in the end of the semi and I couldn’t move on to the final,” Harvey wrote.
In the second semifinal, Gleb Retivykh (RUS) took a commanding lead, and Valjas skied behind Brandsdal at the back of the pack. Valjas finished sixth in the heat for 12th overall.
The result put three Canadian men in the top 12. The only team to boast more on Thursday was Norway, with four in the top 10.
In the women’s quarterfinals, Jones positioned herself in fifth and was unable to gain any ground on Ida Ingemarsdotter (SWE) and Jessie Diggins (USA), who advanced in first and second. Jones placed fifth.
Gaiazova was also fifth in her quarterfinal, trailing eventual winner Justyna Kowalczyk (POL), Natalia Korosteleva (RUS), Ida Sargent (USA) and Nicole Fessel (GER), all of which advanced to the semis.
Wadsworth was quick to point out that qualifying five athletes was a good showing on any day. The overall performance kept up the team momentum built throughout January, ever since Kershaw finished fourth in the Tour de Ski at the beginning of the year.
The Canadians pulled off several podiums in the World Cups that followed, starting in Milan, Italy, where the Canadian women’s duo of Crawford and Jones placed third in a freestyle team sprint on Jan. 15.
When the men resumed racing on Jan. 21, Harvey was fourth in the classic sprint in Otepää. Kershaw placed third the next day.
“There’s not any races we don’t look forward to these days,” Wadsworth said, looking ahead to Kershaw and Harvey’s strengths this weekend in Rybinsk, Russia, with a 15 k freestyle on Saturday and 30 k skiathlon on Sunday.
Ivan Babikov will also be back in action Saturday after a stint back home in Canada.
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.