Canada Takes Second Gold at U23 Nordic World Ski Championships
Canada wins its first mixed team relay at the FIS Nordic U23 World Ski Championships, adding a second gold to its medal count
Planica, SLO— It’s raining gold for Canadian cross-country skiers who finished the 2024 FIS Nordic U23 World Ski Championships with a gold medal victory in the mixed team relay. Under heavy rain, Canada’s Derek Deuling (Whitehorse, YT.), Jasmine Drolet (Rossland, B.C.), Max Hollman (Thunder Bay, Ont.) and Liliane Gagnon (Quebec City, Que.) battled with the powerhouse favorites, to grab the gold in Canada’s second upset victory of the Championships.
Derek Deuling kicked off the race in the first of two classic discipline laps. “I was nervous taking the first leg, I really didn’t want to let my teammates down, but as soon as the race started, I felt confident, and really strong,” said Deuling.
Deuling held to the lead group, passing off to Drolet in fifth place. Drolet pushed to hold the team’s position as the race leaders pushed the pace creating a 15 second lead over the Canadian team. Hollmann fired off the third leg with a strong skate. “I figured I gotta close this gap or explode trying,” explained Hollmann. Close the gap is exactly what he did, handing off to teammate Gagnon 2.2 seconds behind the leader.
Gagnon held the Team’s fifth place position until the last kilometre of the race, despite breaking a pole going into the second lap. Emulating teammate Sonjaa Schmidt’s gold medal move in the women’s sprint race, Gagnon dug deep to free-skate past the leaders in the final 150 meters to take the win.
“I’ve been wanting one of these for a while,” Gagnon said, speaking to the buildup to this result.
CEO Stephane Barrette also recognizes what two gold medals in a major international competition means for Canada.
“This is a demonstration of our High Performance program progress and proof that there are no limits to what Canada can achieve when we believe in ourselves and work together to achieve our goals. It is recognition of the staff and volunteers across the country whose contributions to supporting the athletes over the years allowed this result to happen.”
Successes have been coming fast and furious for Canadian skiers this season. Adding to Canada’s first ever U23 women’s medal earlier this week, the long-dominant Para Nordic National Ski Team returns home from World Cup racing with 14 medals, including three back-to-back golds for veteran Mark Arendz. Canada also had its best-ever Youth Olympic Games performances in cross country skiing just two weeks prior.
At the national hub in Canmore AB, where the nation is hosting World Cup racing, Antoine Cyr entered in 18th place in international standings. Coming into the Canmore races, Cyr was asked if Canada is peaking. “Definitely not,” he said. “This is just the beginning.” Olympic Champion Beckie Scott agrees, saying: “I think the Canadian program is doing very well. It is on its way again.”
When asked what this means for the future of cross-country skiing on the international stage, Barrette says, “Canada is coming. Look out.”