Graham Ritchie and Antoine Cyr Narrowly Miss World Championship Podium Placing Fourth in Team Sprints
PLANICA, Slo—Graham Ritchie and Antoine Cyr feel their first international podium is not far away following a stellar fourth-place finish in the Team Sprint race at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Planica, Slovenia.
The 24-year-old Olympic teammates matched strides with the fastest cross-country skiers on the planet for the near podium finish on Sunday in the skate-ski format.
“It feels so good – especially doing it with Ritchie who is a longtime teammate and friend of mine. We just enjoy representing the country together, so this is awesome,” said Cyr, who hails from Gatineau, Que.
In the team sprint, athletes each ski three laps, handing off to their teammate after completing each 1.4-kilometre leg.
Cyr took on the opening laps for the Canucks.
“I feel the opening leg usually goes really fast and is normally a good leg to make moves and go around the pack, but my job is really to tag Ritchie in the best position, so he doesn’t have to spend extra energy to get in a good position,” added Cyr.
Ritchie, of Parry Sound, Ont., was well in the hunt with the frontrunners each time he was given the green light to blast off the start line.
“The second lap started really hard, and a few guys broke away, but Toni stayed with them. That was super key and then we just tried to tough it out until the end,” said Ritchie, who solidified fourth spot with a strong final rip around the Planica course.
“I really enjoy the anchor position. We haven’t messed with our plan (Cyr first, Ritchie second) because it has been working. There is a bit of pressure going last, but we’ve had good chemistry in these sprints, and both of us have lots of confidence.”
The Canadian duo finished six seconds off the podium pace at 17:51.09.
Norway’s Paal Golberg and Johannes Klaebo won the team sprint with a time of 17:28.14. Italy’s Francesco De Fabiani and Federico Pelleggrino were just under three seconds back in the silver medal position at 17:30.62.
Jay Renaud and Richard Jouve, of France, held off the Canadians for the bronze medal with a time of 17:44.2.
There is definitely some power in mixing the two Canucks together for the exciting race format.
Ritchie and Cyr were seventh in the event two years ago while competing in their first World Championships at the elite level. They topped that performance by delivering a fifth-place result one year ago at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
“It is just the magic of the team. Like a good magician we can’t share our tricks as to why it works,” laughed Cyr.
“Usually, you put an Ontarian and a Quebecer together and they will butt heads but there is just something with the two of us that works,” added Ritchie.
“We can definitely feel the podium is within our reach. The progression through the World Championships, then the Olympics, you for sure feel it. We are right there and can see the guys who finished on the podium right in front of us.”
Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw put their names in the history books in 2011 as the first Canadians ever to win a World Championship title when they skied to the gold medal in the team sprint. Kershaw joined forces with Alex Harvey to finish fourth in the skate-ski team sprint event at the 2010 Olympics. Beckie Scott and Sara Renner won the silver medal at the 2006 Olympics in the classic-ski team sprint race.
Earlier in the day, Canada’s Dahria Beatty (Whitehorse) and Liliane Gagnon (Quebec City) also suited up for the women’s team. The Canadians finished 12th overall at 21:06.28.
The Swedish women continued their early dominance at the World Championships with Emma Ribom and Jonna Sundling skiing to the gold medal at 19:40.73. Norway’s Anne Kalvaa and Tiril Weng were second at 19:43.15.
Jessie Diggins and Julia Kern, of the United States, teamed up to win the bronze medal with a time of 18:46.06.
The Nordic World Ski Championships resume on Tuesday with the women’s 10-kilometre individual start skate-ski race.