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Solid start for Canadian cross-country skiers



While Canada may have set a record in the 2010 Winter Games as the nation with the most gold medal wins in history, the national cross-country ski team fell just short of a medal of their own - despite the fact that five different male athletes were on the podium in the run-up to the Games, and the team had solid contenders in several events.

Anxious to prove that they have the right stuff, the Canadians raced hard at the early season FIS races at Bruksvallarna, Sweden - the unofficial kick-off to the World Cup season for the team, and a chance to measure themselves against the top Swedish athletes.

Canmore's Chandra Crawford got the ball rolling in the women's sprint event, placing 13th overall, with teammate Daria Gaiazova netting a solid 16th.

Devon Kershaw placed third in the men's sprint for Canada, behind Emil Joensson and Jesper Modin of Sweden. Len Valjas, another Canadian, placed fourth.

Gaiazova had a solid race in the women's 10 km Freestyle, placing ninth overall in 25 minutes and 25 seconds - less than 30 seconds back of the podium. Charlotte Kalla of Sweden placed first in 24:05.

In the men's 15 km Freestyle, Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey were fourth and fifth out of 210 starters, with times of 36:16 and 36:44 respectively. Marcus Hellner of Sweden posted the top time of 35:31.

"Hellner was an animal out there and rocked us all," blogged Kershaw, who hung with the chase group to the finish.

"Good/hard 15K skate today," blogged Harvey. "Felt a little tired from the week of training, but happy with the result."

The World Cup season opens this weekend in Gaellivare, Sweden with men's women's 10K Freestyle and men's 15K Freestyle on Nov. 20-21, plus a team relay event. The following week the team will be in Kuusamo, Finland, followed by events at Duesseldorf, Germany; Davos, Switzerland; and La Clusaz France before a two-week break for Christmas.