Five Canadians Ski into Top-30 at International Events
LYGNA, Nor.—A total of five Canadian athletes finished in the top-30 while competing at both the Nordic World Junior Ski Championships and on the World Cup on Sunday in Scandinavia.
Two women led the baby Canucks into the head-to-head heats in the free technique sprint race at the World Junior Championships in Lygna, Norway. Marielle Ackermann, of Kimberley, B.C., and Liliane Gagnon, of Shawinigan-Sud, Que., earned personal bests at the premier international dance for junior skiers.
Ackermann finished in 18th place, while Gagnon was 24th.
“I didn’t have any expectations, so I am really happy with this result,” said Ackermann. “The course felt really hard (in the warm up). It is a short sprint, but you have to constantly work. I went into a zone in my qualifier. I didn’t think too much and was really happy when I saw where I was.”
The 19-year-old made a small tactical error, dropping her to fourth spot in her heat and fractions of a second from moving onto the semis.
“In my heat, I was really nervous because I watched Liliane do hers and I saw how tough it was. I went hard but was on the outside and into a headwind. I tried to stay with Sweden but tripped myself up on the final corner. I was so exhausted and got passed (by one athlete). I went into a tuck and lunged at the finish line for one of the lucky loser spots. I didn’t get it but I’m still happy,” added Ackermann. “I was really struggling at the beginning of the World Championships, and I had no idea where I stood internationally because this is my first World Juniors, so this is huge for my confidence and really motivates me to keep working harder.”
Gagnon was fifth across the line in her quarter-final battle. The top-two athletes in each heat, along with the next two fastest times overall move onto the next round.
Norway’s Maria Melling won the junior women’s race. Sweden’s Maerta Rosenberg was second, while Elizaveta Bekisheva finished third.
Jasmine Drolet, of Rossland, B.C., just missed snagging a spot in the heats, qualifying 31st. Tory Audet was also narrowly on the outside of the top-30. The Chelsea Nordiq skier qualified 34th.
The Canadian men struggled to find the top gear in the sprint that has produced career-best results for them throughout the World Championships. All four athletes missed qualifying for the heats.
Sasha Masson (Whitehorse) was 35th; Xavier McKeever (Canmore, Alta.) placed 45th; Tom Stephen (Calgary) qualified 52nd; and Felix-Olivier Moreau (Mont St. Anne, Que.) skied to 60th spot.
Canada’s Under-23 mixed relay team of Anna Parent (Canmore, Alta.), Sam Hendry (Canmore, Alta.), Pierre Grall-Johnson (Ottawa) and Anna Pryce (Calgary) combined to finish 14th in the 4x5km relay with a time of 53:24.0.
Norway won the relay event with a time of 49:20.5.
Three Canadians Enjoy Strong Day on World Cup
A trio of Canucks climbed into the elite group of 30 in the men’s and women’s World Cup middle distance individual start classic-ski races at the Lahti Ski Games.
Antoine Cyr, of Gatineau, Que., completed his three laps around the five-kilometre loop in a time of 34:53.0 to put him in 23rd spot.
Fresh off an impressive Olympic debut, Olivier Léveillé, continued his steady rookie season on the World Cup. The 20-year-old from Sherbrooke, Que., skied into the points on Sunday – a place he has regularly been throughout the season – finishing with a time of 35:05.6 for 29th place. Léveillé was the third fastest athlete on the day under the age of 23 in the 15-kilometre test.
Finland’s Iivo Niskanen won the men’s race with a time of 33:06.5. Norway’s Johannes Klaebo was second at 33:24.1, topping Sweden’s William Poromaa who clocked-in at 33:24.5.
Katherine Stewart-Jones, of Chelsea, Que., finished in the top-30 for the first time in an individual start race on the World Cup. The 26-year-old Olympian stopped the clock at 26:39.1 for 30th place in the women’s 10-kilometre event.
“My body felt good, and my skis were really fast. It was just a great day to classic ski with perfect conditions and a super fun course,” said Stewart-Jones, who fed off the energy of finally skiing in front of cheering fans lining the trails. “I’ve felt more myself since I’ve returned from the Olympic Games. It’s been nice to have more freedom this week, and to ski on fun trails that are not race courses.”
Norway’s Therese Johaug clocked a golden pace of 24:28.4. Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva stopped the clock 1.2 seconds back at 24:29.6, while Finland’s Krista Parmakoski pleased the hometown crowd with a bronze-medal finish and a time of 24:44.9.
Other Canadian men’s results includes: Remi Drolet (Rossland, B.C.) in 42nd at 35:48.4; Philippe Boucher (Lévis, Que.) was 59th at 36:33.3; while Léo Grandbois (Sherbrooke, Que.), who was ninth at the U23 World Championships 15-kilometre classic-ski race last week, was 62nd in his first World Cup start with a time of 36:45.4.
Three other Canadian women, who all represented Canada at the 2022 Olympic Games, were on the start line Sunday. Dahria Beatty (Whitehorse) placed 33rd at 26:47.8. Cendrine Browne, (Prévost, Que.) was 36th at 26:52.9, while Laura Leclair (Chelsea, Que.) finished 58th at 28:56.3.