Canadians Battle it Out with Big Nations Finishing Top-10 in World Championship Relays
VUOKATTI, Fin.—There were no podium celebrations, but Canada’s three relay teams all finished in the top-10 on Saturday at the Junior and Under-23 Nordic World Ski Championships in Finland.
The junior men’s team put up a strong fight but were not able to replicate last year’s silver-medal triumph in the 4×5 kilometre relay. The young Canucks finished sixth. The junior women locked up ninth spot in their 4×3.3 kilometre relay, while Canada’s U23 squad also finished ninth in the mixed 4×5 kilometre relay.
“The relays are exciting no matter how it goes because the atmosphere is so fun,” said Erik Braaten, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team. “We had lots of really good individual performances but overall, we were just okay.”
Looking to build off his bronze-medal breakthrough on Friday, Olivier Léveillé joined forces with three Canadian teens – Xavier McKeever (Canmore, Alta.), Tom Stephen (Calgary) and Joe Davies (Pemberton, B.C.) – for another charge at the podium. After each skied a five-kilometre leg before handing off to their teammate, the Canucks found themselves in sixth place at 50:55.1 – just two seconds out of fifth and less than 50 seconds from the medals.
“Definitely it is tricky to come back after yesterday’s medal and especially for the juniors because they were supposed to have a day off before the relay but with the schedule changes due to the cold, they are going three days in a row. That is a heavy lift,” added Braaten. “There are a lot of emotions that come with winning a medal so it can take a lot of out of you and that is something we need to continue to work on, but the guys were right in the mix today. Of course the standard was set last year with the silver medal, and not what we hoped for today, but it was a good result.”
The Norwegians won the 20-kilometre haul that consists of two athletes clicking into classic-skis followed by the two legs in the skate-ski format. Norway set the winning time at 49:45.3. Finland was second at 50:05.3, while Italy clocked-in at 50:07.9 for third place.
The junior women also enjoyed a solid outing in the relay, skiing to ninth. Molly Miller (Kimberly, B.C.), Jasmine Drolet (Rossland, B.C.), Liliane Gagnon (Quebec City), and Anna Pryce (Calgary) finished in the middle of 17 nations with a combined time of 40:11.5 in the junior women’s 4×3.3 kilometre relay.
Sweden was crowned queens of the junior women’s division, winning with a time of 37:50.5. Russia was second at 37:50.8. Norway rounded out the women’s podium in third at 38:16.9.
Canada’s Under-23 athletes matched the junior women’s finish while hitting the start line for the final time this week. Annika Richardson (Vancouver) skied the opening leg before handing off to Antoine Cyr (Gatineau, Que.), Graham Ritchie (Parry Sound, Ont.) and then Elizabeth Elliott (Revelstoke, B.C.) in the anchor position. The Canadians scrapped their way to ninth position with a time of 55:10.0 in the 4×5 kilometre mixed relay. Cyr was a particular highlight for the Canucks posting the fastest time while skiing the second leg.
Norway edged out Russia for the win with a time of 52:52.9. The Russians skied to the silver, just four seconds back at 52:56.8, while the Swedes celebrated the bronze with a time of 53:00.6.
The Nordic World Ski Championships wrap up Sunday with a junior women’s 15-kilometre classic-ski mass start and a junior men’s 30-kilometre classic-ski mass start race.
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