Canadian National Ski TeamDown to the Wire: Canadians Have One More Set of Trials to Decide World Champs Team

Avatar Alex KochonJanuary 17, 2013
Alex Harvey (R) and Devon Kershaw (L) celebrating their World Championships gold in 2011 in Oslo.
Alex Harvey (R) and Devon Kershaw (L) celebrating their World Championships gold in the team sprint at the 2011 World Championships in Oslo, Norway. A few hardworking domestic skiers will get to join them on Canada’s 2013 World Championships team.

If you thought the Americans had to wait a while for the naming of their cross-country World Championships team, which is supposed to be announced by the end of this week, try being Canadian.

Domestic racers up north won’t find out until at least Monday, Jan. 28 (a week and a half from now), who made the cut for the International Ski Federation (FIS) World Ski Championships from Feb. 20 to March 3 in Val di Fiemme, Italy. That might seem like enough time for up to 11 athletes to get their travel and training arrangements in line, but really, everyone just wants to know.

With another set of trials ahead in two weekends, we’ll have to sit tight until after the Duntroon NorAm classic sprints and 10/15 k freestyle races from Jan. 26-27 in central Ontario.

After that, the selection process should be relatively straightforward, according to Cross Country Canada High Performance Director Thomas Holland.

“You’re looking at whoever wins and for the second [set of trials], two people for races,” he said on the phone Wednesday.

That’s barring any unusual circumstances (i.e. someone falls, someone gets sick, etc.), in which case the selection committee might use some discretion. Holland and Canadian national team head coach Justin Wadsworth will be overseas in Sochi, Russia, when the team is supposed to be named, which could also delay the process.

“If there are any difficulties, we’re not going to make a rush judgment,” Holland said. “Let’s say there’s a force majeureor something weird happens. In an ideal world, Monday some kind of announcement will come out.”

As it stands, seven of 11 possible athletes on Canada’s 2013 Senior World Championships team prequalified. The entire World Cup team (Alex Harvey, Devon Kershaw, Ivan Babikov, Lenny Valjas, Chandra Crawford, Dasha Gaiazova and Perianne Jones) met the criteria by notching top-12 World Cup results this season.

That leaves four spots open for domestic skiers, and while Holland didn’t want to predict how those would play out by gender or discipline (sprint and distance), he stated they were looking to fill the 11-person maximum and get racers international racing experience.

“You’ve got to also look at where you’re going to do well,” Holland said. “The most-likely scenario is to take a sprinter and a distance [skier from both genders]. We’re not locked into that but you need to look at where we can probably get the best placings.”

The fact that Cross Country Canada (CCC) is using two sets of NorAm classic sprints and distance races as trials (first at Lappe Nordic in Thunder Bay on Jan. 3 and 5, and also at Highlands Nordic in Duntroon) indicates that they’re searching for individuals in both.

For the women, it’s a bit more open-ended with one sprint spot and possibly some more distance starts on the line (up to four per race). Holland hopes whomever they select for the sprints (male and female) can excel at distance races as well, especially on the women’s side, freeing up some distance spots for additional up-and-coming skiers.

“Our [women’s] World Cup team is predominantly sprint-oriented so I think there’s lots of potential every distance day for someone who gets selected to the team,” Holland said. “It’s not the same on the men’s side. It’s quite a bit tighter.”

So let’s take a look, first at the criteria laid out by CCC and then at those who prequalified and/or might have the best shot at making the team. Remember, there are upcoming races in Duntroon, which hold a lot of weight, plus Canada Points Lists (CPL) rankings (scheduled to be released Jan. 21) that could help the selection committee decide.

Here’s how the criteria breaks down, paraphrased from CCC:

Maximum team size: 11

Max number of Canadians of each gender per race: 4 (except the team sprint)

Ratio of sprinters/distance skiers: Based on Wadsworth’s recommendations

Who prequalified: All seven World Cup team members (four men, three women) based on the following selection standards:

a. Made FIS red group at the end of period 1

b. Top-12 distance or top-12 classic sprint result on the 2012/2013 World Cup

Who else can qualify:

c. One male and one female based on Wadsworth’s direct recommendation

d. Race winners in designated distance and sprint trials (if there are two winners, tiebreak will be CPL)

i. In sprints, selected athlete must have won at least one of the two sprint trials

e. “Athletes with exceptional results at U23 World Championships [next week] could be added to this trip and not considered part of maximum team size of 11.” Based on Wadsworth’s recommendations and consideration of other factors (starts available, depth of U23 field, time behind winner, etc.)

***

So here’s what were looking at for a potential Senior World Championships team (divided into sprint and distance spots). Note that not every skier will likely do all six races in Val di Fiemme, leaving room for extras, such as another man on the distance side. According to Holland, CCC is looking to bring a fifth distance male to World Championships to fill in for the any of the four World Cup skiers if they decide not to race a particular event.

This speculative and incomplete breakdown is not in order, and as a reminder, is based on one set of trials and the last CPL distance and sprint rankings, which were published Dec. 21. Asterisks (*) denote athletes who meet the criteria.

Men:

Distance races

1. Alex Harvey*

2. Devon Kershaw*

3. Ivan Babikov*

4. Lenny Valjas* (unclear whether he’ll start all the distance races)

5. Graham Nishikawa? Michael Somppi?

Sprint

1. Harvey*

2. Kershaw*

3. Valjas*

4. Phil Widmer? (Jesse Cockney could have shot at this in Duntroon, but his ninth-place skate sprint result at the Canmore World Cup — where he was second in the qualifier — didn’t grant him a classic start at world champs. At the very least, Holland said he’ll earn World Cup starts later this season.)

Women:

Distance

(Will any of the World Cup women race distance? If they do, this is how it might look)

1. Chandra Crawford

2. Dasha Gaiazova

3. Perianne Jones

4. Emily Nishikawa? Alysson Marshall? Brittany Webster?

Sprints

1. Crawford*

2. Gaiazova*

3. Jones*

4. Alysson Marshall? Andrea Dupont?

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Alex Kochon

Alex Kochon (alex@fasterskier.com) 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.

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