Sasha Masson Gains Valuable Learnings in Sprint Qualification at Nordic U23 World Ski Championships in Whistler
WHISTLER, B.C.—Sasha Masson had the nation on his shoulders as the lone Canadian to qualify for the classic cross-country ski sprint heats at the Under-23 World Ski Championships in Whistler, B.C. on Sunday.
Competing in just his second World Ski Championships, and first in the Under 23 category, the 20-year-old Masson skied to his best finish in 23rd at the ultimate nordic test for athletes ages 16-23 years old.
“The whole goal was to qualify (for the heats) so to cross the line in 26th (qualifying), I was surprised,” said Masson.
The fastest 30 athletes on the 1.2-kilometre course earn a ticket into the heats where athletes race head-to-head in groups of six.
Masson, the son to Olympic cross-country skiers Alain Masson and Lucy Steele-Masson, was the solo Canuck in the round of 30. The top-two athletes in each heat along with the next two fastest times overall advanced to the semifinals.
The Whitehorse skier settled into the back of his pack while double poling out of the stadium. He worked his way on the right side of the group striding up the long climb that stretches across the top of Whistler Olympic Park while keeping touch at the back of the pack.
“I kind of got blocked out at the top of the hill,” said Masson, who trains out of the Centre national d’entraînement Pierre-Harvey under Louis Bouchard. “I saw them take off and I was going a bit slower so I went to a track that had a bit of free space and took my chance. It was okay but I think it would have paid off a bit better if I stayed on the right.”
The racing day came to an end for the member of Canada’s 2020 Youth Olympic Games Team when he crossed the finish line fifth in his heat.
“I could have played that a bit better but there are always learnings. There are a lot of fast skiers out there. I’m just trying to keep up with them and continue learning,” he said. “It was a great experience to race at home. The fans were so awesome. It was great to have all of the support.”
Norway’s Ansgar Evensen dominated the men’s sprint final, handily winning the world title. Two Swedish athletes battled for the final two spots on the podium. George Ersson edged out his countryman for the the silver. Emil Danielsson finished third.
Three other Canadian men suited up on Sunday, but qualified outside the top-30. Kendyn Mashinter (Sudbury, Ont.) was the next best Canadian qualifying in 38th; Luke Fricker (Canmore, Alta.) placed 42nd; and Erikson Moore (Montreal) was 48th.
All four Canadian women just missed earning a spot in the heats. Liliane Gagnon (Quebec City) was one second off the qualifying pace in 33rd; Sonjaa Schmidt (Whitehorse) was 36th; Michelle Ackermann (Kimberley, B.C.) 37th; and Anna Parent (Canmore, Alta.) in 39th.
Finland’s Jasmin Kahara skied to the gold medal in the women’s sprint final. Norway’s Kristin Fosnaes and Sigrid Foeyen finished second and third respectively.
The world’s best junior-aged athletes will hit the start line for a 20-kilometre mass start classic cross-country ski race on Monday.
More than 500 athletes – ages 16-23 – representing 37 countries are compete on Whistler’s ski trails and jumping towers over the next 10 days. It is just the third time Canada has played host to the Nordic Junior/U23 World Ski Championships. The Canmore Nordic Centre welcomed the next generation of Olympians in 1997. The World Juniors for ski jumping and Nordic combined were also held in Mont-Sainte Anne, Que. in 1979. It will be the first major international event at Whistler Olympic Park since the 2010 Games.
Race Schedule: The race schedule can be viewed here
Event spectator tickets are $5/person for a 1-day event ticket, or $25 for access on all event days. Kids ages 6 & under get free access! Those who have a regular Whistler Olympic Park day ticket or season pass for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing can spectate for free. Purchase tickets online here, or at the gate at Whistler Olympic Park.
The majority of the events are being livestreamed. More livestream information here