Three Canadian women ski into elite group of 30 on grueling race day in Beijing
By Chris Dornan on behalf of Nordiq Canada
BEIJING, Chn — Cendrine Browne and her teammates set the tone for the Canada’s cross-country skiers at the 2022 Winter Games after putting down her best-ever Olympic performance, skiing to 20th place in the women’s 15-kilometre skiathlon race on Saturday in Beijing, China.
Competing in her second Olympic Games, the 28-year-old from Prévost, Que. clocked a time of 47:58.1 after a gutsy effort that challenged the top women’s cross-country skiers who were faced with long punishing climbs and blustery winds on a frigid afternoon at the Zhangjiakou National Cross-Country skiing Centre.
“That is a career-best result today! I’m really, really happy and proud of how I raced,” said Browne. “I worked very hard on my classic the last year and I think that really helped me today. It was definitely a tough race with tough conditions so I’m glad I was able to ski relaxed and be conservative with my energy. It was really fun being in the same pack as Katherine! I’m so proud of our team. This shows that we are in great shape!”
Canada’s Browne, Katherine Stewart-Jones (Chelsea, Que.) and Dahria Beatty (Whitehorse) worked together in the chase pack for much of the race. Browne and Stewart-Jones exchanged positions as the top Canuck in each of the four laps. Skiing strong, the Canadian trio conserved their energy for a strong finish in the top-30.
Skiing in and out of the top-20 on the wide-open course, Stewart-Jones (Chelsea, Que.) finished 23rd at 48:17.3 in her Olympic debut.
“This is my first Olympic Games, so it was a really great experience. There was a lot of wind today, so it was important to stay in the tracks and conserve energy,” said Stewart-Jones. “It was a long 15 kms given how tough a course this is. I was happy with the way I felt out there despite it being so long since I had raced, and I didn’t really know what to expect. This will do a lot for my confidence for the rest of these Games.”
Beatty also had a boost of confidence with her career best Olympic result, skiing steady in the middle of the pack en route to a 28th place finish at 48:52.0.
“You had to be pretty strategic on the downhills today. With the wind, my goal was to be as small as possible on the downhills and then give everything I had on the climbs. I’m super happy with how it went for me. Being in the top-30 in a distance race is always something I’m happy with,” said Beatty.
Olivia Bouffard Nesbitt (Morin Heights, Que.) scrapped her way to 44th in a time of 50:11.7.
“It was super challenging conditions for everyone. It was windy, cold, the snow was slow, and this is a heck of a course,” said Bouffard Nesbitt. “It is one of the hardest courses if not the hardest. It was just epic today – my first Olympic race – getting blasted by the wind right off the start. You really could just feel the size of the event right away.”
Battling for the first Nordic skiing medal of the Games, the field of 63 women set an electric pace from the start gun and held it throughout the challenging 15-kilometre test which combined 7.5 kilometres of classic cross-country skiing followed by 7.5 additional kilometres in the free technique. Athletes change equipment in a pit stop area between the two legs with the clock still running.
Norway’s Therese Johaug controlled the pack in both disciplines. A force from start-to-finish, Johaug led a group of approximately 15 athletes who strung out the field on the second hill in the first lap. Charging out onto the second half of the course after leading the pack into the exchange area, the Norwegian skied with a handful of athletes until surging with less than three kilometres to go en route to winning the gold medal with a time of 44:13.7.
Natalia Nepryaeva, who is an athlete representing the Russian Olympic Committee, was the next best finisher 30.2 seconds off the golden pace. Nepryaeva claimed the silver with a time of 44:43.9, topping Austria’s Teresa Stadlober who grabbed the bronze medal at 44:44.2.
The Canadian men will hit the Olympic start line for a 30-kilometre skiathlon race on Sunday.
Complete Results: https://bit.ly/3B0mbxc
For complete details on Team Canada at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, please visit https://olympic.ca/games/beijing-2022/