Whistler's Thomsen D'Hont, who races cross-country for the Northwest Territories, got a huge break at the recent NorAm Cup sprints in Canmore, placing 13th in the sprint races to qualify to represent Canada at the upcoming World Cup sprint event in Quebec City.
There was one Canadian skier ahead of him, but he chose not to take the spot on the National Group because of the travel involved and his focus on long distance races, and D'Hont jumped at the opportunity to take his spot.
"The (NorAm Race) was actually a big focus for me this season, just to do well at the first race," said D'Hont.
For the most part he's happy with his performance in Canmore, although he had his doubts after missing out on a chance to advance to the finals in a heat where the top four were separated by eight-tenths of a second.
D'Hont is looking forward to the whole World Cup experience.
"I'm just going to fly in and do the best I can, and just enjoy it," he said. "I've never raced World Cup before so it's going to be a different experience — having special bibs so you can get on course, and the hustle and bustle of the race area. And racing in the city in front of their legislature with the most spectators for any race I've ever been to."
The streets of old Quebec City are being transformed into a cross-country ski arena for this Saturday. While it's a first of its kind in Canada, the International Ski Federation (FIS) has been hosting urban events around Europe for the last few years, drawing huge crowds of spectators to watch the best in the sport bury themselves for a chance at a medal.
While the sport has a larger following in Europe than Canada, organizers are expecting a similar turnout in Quebec, especially with a hometwon hero in the running.
There will be 50 Canadians racing — 25 men and 25 women — in the event, but for Quebec natives the one name that will get the loudest cheer is Alex Harvey — a 24-year-old who grew up in the town of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges just outside the city, and has three World Cup medals to his credit.
"It feels great to be home, and I'm so excited to race here in Quebec City for the first time," said Harvey. "It is so exciting to be a part of that. My first World Cup medal was in Canada (at the Olympic test event at Whistler Olympic Park). I always seem to put down the best results down in the big events. I thrive when there is extra pressure and I love the adrenaline. I am really looking forward to the next two weeks."
The crowd could easily be in the hundreds of thousands for the races. The team sprint event is this Friday and individual sprints take place on Saturday. On Sunday, the course will host a Sprint Quebec Open for amateurs.
Five snowmaking machines were brought in to make over 10,000 cubic metres of snow on an 850 metre-long, 13 metre-wide course. Over 150 athletes from 17 countries will take part, and the races will be broadcast live in Canada and in over 60 countries.
As well as members of the national team, the field will include athletes at the development and national training centre levels.
Following Quebec, the FIS World Cup tour will head to Canmore, which is hosting classic, sprint and team pursuit events.