It took a little longer than he wanted, but last Saturday, Jan. 21, Canadian cross-country star Devon Kershaw made his return to the podium on a hilly classic course in Estonia.
The bronze medal in the 15km classic race was the eighth of Kershaw's career. It was also his sixth top 10 result this season, with the result that he's now ranked fifth overall on the World Cup Tour.
"I went out really hard today," said Kershaw. "I went for the win and I don't regret it. It has been a hard couple of weeks for me personally and I didn't know what to expect coming off the Tour. Today I was able to mentally switch off the brain and focus on skiing, which felt amazing."
Kershaw had the silver medal in his sights, but was edged at the finish by Czech Republic star Lukas Bauer. Dario Cologna of Switzerland placed first, almost 25 seconds ahead of Bauer and Kershaw.
Kershaw, who hails from Ontario, but lives in Canmore, tipped his toque to Cologna. "The climbs out here are relentless and punishing. They are so long, which we don't normally ski. The Estonians know how to set up a course to ensure the strongest man wins.
"The biggest factor for me is I'm now feeling much stronger and more comfortable every race because of the people I'm surrounded by on our team. We have had an athlete in the top five at every World Cup stop this year, which I think is a credit to the athletes we have on this team, and the support from our wax techs and coaches. Mentally, it is so good for me."
Alex Harvey placed 19th in the classic race, but the previous day came close to his second podium of the season in the sprint where he placed fourth. Kershaw was 40th in that event. Len Valjas, the other member of the team at Otepaa, was 21st in the sprint and 31st in the classic.
In the women's sprint the top racer was Daria Gaiazova was 17th and Chandra Crawford — on the podium twice this season — 22nd. Perianne Jones was 39th.
In the classic race the top Canadian was Perianne Jones in 30th. Daria Gaiazova was 35th and Chandra Crawford 51st.