Perianne Jones was close — just 0.22 seconds from qualifying in the women’s World Cup 1.3-kilometer freestyle sprint to be exact.
So was Jesse Cockney, who was 0.68 seconds outside the top 30 in the men’s 1.5-kilometer sprint in 34th.
Both are Canadian Development B-Team members, and both were a few places and tenths of a second away from getting more racing time on Friday in Lillehammer, Norway.
“I wanted to make sure I finished today and felt like I left it all out there,” Jones, 29, wrote in an email after placing 33rd. “Last weekend I skied so terribly that I didn’t feel like that at the end, so that was a step in the right direction.”
In the World Cup opening classic sprint in Kuusamo, Jones placed 48th, 4.38 seconds out of 30th. Considering that, Friday was an improvement.
“Of course I would have liked to be in the heats, being that close is hard, but at the same time encouraging because I was so close,” she wrote.
Jones hadn’t raced since last Saturday’s classic sprint, opting out of the distance race to get a full week of recovery.
“If this had been a regular weekend race instead of a Friday race I probably would have raced the distance race in Kuusamo, but I just didn’t want to risk feeling crappy today,” she explained.
“I will for sure race tomorrow.”
As for Sunday’s 10 k classic pursuit, she added that she was taking it one day at a time.
In his first World Cup of the season, Cockney, who placed 13th in a Norwegian Cup Gala classic sprint and 39th in a 10 k classic last weekend, explained his two races there were “great prep” for Lillehammer.
“It’s been all good here the last week with some good training at Sjusjoen, just outside of Lillehammer,” the 25 year old wrote in an email. “I’m not doing anything differently to transition from domestic circuits to the World Cup so it’s fairly business as usual in that sense.”
Warming up on Friday morning felt normal, he added. “I felt like I had some speed to use today,” he wrote.
“I thought my qualifier was good but with a field like this in Norway, it has to be perfect to get to the heats. I’m happy with the feeling and I did everything I could but pretty bummed about being on the wrong side of a close race.
“I skied hard and gave everything that I could but maybe I need to ski a bit more like my job is on the line because at the end of the day it actually is,” he added. “Some more desperation may go a long way to putting me in the heats.”
Like Jones, he plans to race Saturday’s freestyle individual starts — 5 k for the women and 10 k for the men — after which he will decide whether he’ll start Sunday’s 15 k pursuit.
“Some more desperation may go a long way to putting me in the heats.” — Jesse Cockney, 34th in Lillehammer 1.5 k freestyle sprint qualifier
Alex Harvey was Canada’s lone male qualifier in 22nd. He went on to finish a season-best fifth in the final.
Lenny Valjas finished 45th in the preliminary round, 2.65 seconds from qualifying. Devon Kershaw placed 64th, Graeme Killick was 94th and Ivan Babikov was 110th out of 119 men.
“I was feeling good warming up to be honest. Kind of like last weekend before the sprint qualifier,” Kershaw wrote in an email. “In the qualifier though, not feeling as good. Just not able to hold the technique I wanted deep enough into the hills (switching to offset too early).
“Once that started happening, perhaps I started to scramble too much and I did a poor job over the tops of the climbs — I wasn’t snappy or peppy enough to create enough speed into the descents,” he added. “It wasn’t a stellar day of sprint qualifying.”
Kershaw described the course as a “good, honest and hard course,” excellent for a sprint.
“Climbs, turny descents, some flatter terrain and probably most importantly, room to pass if you were strong,” he wrote. “I didn’t ski fast, but once upon a time I would have loved a course like this! I wanted to race the heats badly because I thought it really would suit me. I am just not fast enough on my own yet to put that last statement to practice.
“I guess I am still carrying fatigue from the training load, or perhaps I’m just getting slower in my old age — I don’t know. I do know I’m not totally ready to give up on the sprints yet — but I am taking my knocks that’s for sure.”
His goals for the weekend remain unchanged, he wrote, and he’s excited for Saturday’s 10 k skate and will focus on some technical tasks during that.
“Of course I am most excited about Sunday’s 15km classic. It’ll be pretty much a mass start — or at least there will be big groups to ski with,” Kershaw added. “The course is really challenging, but I felt good last weekend in Kuusamo on a challenging course in classic, so I am for sure excited and more confident in that distance/discipline at the moment. I am very thankful that the sprint is out of the way now and I can focus more on the distance racing for the weekend which has been feeling better for me by miles than the short, fast sprints.”
The second Canadian woman in Friday’s sprint, development-team member Emily Nishikawa placed 76th.
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.