Making the podium in the Nordic skiing world is a tough business with large, competitive fields in every race, and a hardcore following in northern Europe that breeds top athletes like Canada churns out hockey players.
But Canada has been making inroads into the sport as well, and on Tuesday at the World Ski Championships in Oslo, Norway, the team of Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey stole the men's title in the classic sprints.
Kershaw led with the baton, and was sitting in seventh in a still tight race when he handed off to Harvey. Harvey pushed his way up through the pack, and was in third place when he handed back to Kershaw. Kershaw lost one place as the top European and Russian teams charged, but hung onto the lead pace going into the final exchange. He was ranked seventh at that point, but only a few ski lengths separated the field. Harvey, regarded as one of the top young skiers in the world at 22 years old, managed to move back into second place as the pace slowed and handed off to Kershaw one last time. Kershaw clung to the leader up the climb, and lost one spot heading into the last exchange. Harvey, who was the strongest skier that day, double-poled his way into the lead and dodged a block to win the final sprint to the finish line.
The win was Canada's first in a world championship, although the women's team (Beck Scott, Sara Renner and Chandra Crawford) has managed medals at the Olympic level.
"We're really happy with the way the race unfolded for us," said Harvey. "We're both in good shape, our skis were fast and our tactics were perfect, so it's amazing."
Harvey said he deliberately got behind Norway's Ola Hattestad on the final lap, letting the big skier fight the headwind while he conserved his energy in the slipstream. That put Harvey in a position where he could press at the finish, and in the end he finished a ski length ahead of the pack.
The Show replaces Grenade Games in WSSF lineup
After two fun years, snowboarding legend Danny Kass is taking his Grenade Games back on the road, but the void that left in the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival has already been filled. The Show: a Snowboarding Event will run over five days, April 15 to 19.
Like the Grenade Games it will be open to the public, and some of the events will be similar - contests include The Grand Opening freestyle snowboard jam, the Mogul Mash dual moguls and trick competition, the Borderstyle/Stylecross snowboardcross and trick competition, and Dustin Craven's FUN Pipe Jam - an elimination halfpipe event where the cash prize will go to the last man and woman standing.
There is also a full slate of social events in the evening: The Late Show is a late night concert at the Conference Centre, Pub Night is what it sounds like (darts, pool, pub food and beer), and The Sideshow is a sideshow freak costume party.
The Orage Masters is also moving on, so the World Skiing Invitational lineup has also been padded out this year with three events - a slopestyle, the Degree Superpipe and the return of the village Big Air competition. The top prize in the Big Air this year is a Chevrolet Cruze, plus over $15,000 in cash for the runners up and top two women.
Details are online at www.wssf.com.
Park Rider Sessions returns with halfpipe
If you're considering a run at The Show or World Skiing Invitational - or just want to show off your park skills - the Park Rider Sessions presented by Telus are hosting their first and only halfpipe competition of the season on Sunday, March 16.
Open to skiers and snowboarders of all ages, this is a judged event where athletes will be graded on air, spins, technical difficulty, landings and the overall impression. Each athlete gets two judged runs (plus several practice runs), and only the best result counts in the overall standings.
Advance registration is $29 at Guest Relations, and day-of-event registration will be available for $35 at the Rendezvous Lodge until 9:45 a.m. on competition day.
Helmets are mandatory and mouth guards recommended for all competitors. Minors will need a waiver signed by a parent or guardian.
There will be prizes for the top athletes in each age class, and all participants are eligible to win prizes donated by sponsors.