Nordiq Canada News

Russell Kennedy and Xavier McKeever Claim Bronze Medals in Opening Nordiq Cup (COC) Races in Sovereign Lake B.C. Liliane Gagnon leads Canadian women with top-10 finishes in sprint and distance races

December 01, 2022

VERNON, B.C.—Canada’s cross-country ski athletes snagged a pair of bronze medals in the first two Nordiq Cup (COC) races of the 2022-23 domestic race circuit at Sovereign Lake Nordic Club near Vernon. B.C.

Olympic veteran, Russell Kennedy, led the Canadian charge on Thursday by finishing third in the 10-kilometre skate-ski race with a time of 25:28.9.

“I knew my form was good from yesterday, so I knew I had it in me to do well today,” said Kennedy. “I wanted to push the pace a bit and narrow down the group as much as I could. I knew that I could hold it for the second lap and hurt some people. I’m happy with the first two days. The form is building, and everything has been positive so far.”

The 31-year-old Canmore, Alta. resident finished just 4.7 seconds off the golden pace set by Tom Mancini who stopped the clock at 25:24.2. Fellow American, John Steel Hagenbuch was second at 25:24.7.

Kennedy guided for 20-time Paralympic medallist, Brian McKeever, at the last two Paralympic Games. He was inspired by the nephew of Canada’s most decorated Paralympian, Xavier McKeever, to deliver his best on Thursday.

The younger McKeever stormed to a bronze medal in Wednesday’s sprint classic ski race in the open category.

“I am super excited to take third place,” said the 19-year-old McKeever, who was the top U20 athlete as a result of his Open finish. “Overall it was pretty solid and I was lucky to be in the final because I broke a pole in the semis.

“I didn’t have much energy left but I did have enough to squeak out third place. I just tried to ski efficient, tactically smart and transition well throughout the race. I am happy with the day.”

McKeever shared the sprint podium with two athletes representing teams from the United States. Magnus Boee was crowned sprint champion, while Zanden McMullen was second.

For Thursdays race he was the top U20 skier in the 10-kilometre race, finishing 19th overall at 26:39.3.

“I expected the fast pace today. I was just trying to stick in the pack and ski as efficiently as possible in the pack,” added McKeever. “I ran out of energy in the second lap today and couldn’t keep up with the pack so then went backwards so that was a bit disappointing.”

Liliane Gagnon, a 20-year-old member of Nordiq Canada’s Olympic Development program, was the top Canuck in Thursday’s 10-kilometre skate-ski race, and in Wednesday’s classic-ski sprint event.

The Quebec City resident battled through the frigid conditions to a sixth-place showing in the middle distance race, posting a time of 30:08.8.

Gagnon finished within 10 seconds of a trio of American women. Anna-Maria Dietz won with a time of 29:59.0. Sydney Palmer Leger would finish in second, finishing the 10km race at 29:59.6. Karianne Dengerud punched the clock at 30:00.1 on Thursday for third.

Canada’s Gagnon was 10th in Wednesday’s open sprint race.

“I was happy with how I skied being up there with the top girls,” said Gagnon. “It was a very long sprint. I tried to keep it conservative in the start, knowing the last part would be very hard. It was a minute longer than normal, so I had to start a bit slower behind those faster girls.”

Olympian Hailey Swirbul would take the top step of the podium in the sprint, with Sydeney Palmer Leger in second, and Anna-Maria Dietze third.

Chelsea Nordiq’s Tori Audet would take the top spot in the U20 Women’s sprint field.

“It was awesome to race a lot faster and older skiers,” said Audet. “I knew it was going to be slow and long. I was excited going into it and didn’t know how it would go but it was an awesome day.”

For Nordiq Cup’s this season U20 athletes who finish top 30 in the open qualification will continue to race in the open heats. While U20 athletes who are outside of the top 30 will race in U20 heats.

Edmonton’s Alison Mackie would take the top Canadian position in the 10-kilometre skate-ski race on Thursday, placing second in the U20 women’s field, and 16th overall at 31:22.7.

“It was so much fun. I really like pushing myself and testing my ability against the older skiers,” said Mackie. “I just wanted to stick with people. This is the first really cold race of the season. I wasn’t used to it, but I thought I handled it well.”

The two days of racing puts a bow on the first Nordiq Cup of the season. Races will continue in Sovereign Lake BC this weekend with the first Canada’s Cups of the winter.

Complete Results:

Canada’s cross-country ski athletes will have equal opportunity to compete in two regional races in either Eastern or Western Canada in December prior to heading west following the holiday break for the Olympic and FIS Nordic Junior/U23 World Ski Championships trials.

The FIS Canada Cup Series will provide the country’s high-performance nordic athletes the opportunity to earn FIS points without leaving their region by competing in two regional race series opportunities in Eastern and Western Canada. The FIS sanctioning of an event only affects the elite Open category. All other race categories will be run as Provincial Cups. U20 athletes racing in their respective East-West FIS Canada Cup Series will have the opportunity to qualify for a Nordiq Canada development trip to US SuperTour Period III. Selection criteria will be outlined in the forthcoming NST Trip Selection Criteria.