Sonjaa Schmidt wins Canada’s first women’s U23 Nordic World Championships title, adding her name to the history books
Planica, Slovenia— Sonjaa Schmidt made Canadian skiing history today when she crossed the finish claiming gold in the sprint final of the U23 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships.
In a surprise upset, the 21-year-old skier from Whitehorse, Yukon came from the back of the pack in the final heat to secure the top spot on the podium.
After qualifying in 29th position, Schmidt would cruise through the quarters, and semifinal heats to secure her spot in the finals. With six athletes fighting for the top three spots, Schmidt made her move in the final straight, taking the outside line in a free skate to blow by the leaders in the final 120 meters, crossing the line with a triumphant fist in the air. The historic victory is the first gold medal for Canada in a U23 Nordic World Ski Championship women’s event.
” My main goal for today was to just qualify for the heats,” said Schmidt. “Once I got into the heats, I was just focused on staying calm and relaxed and race my hardest”.
Schmidt has been a dominant force in Canadian domestic racing this season. She made her World Cup debut in January with races in Oberhof, Germany and Goms, Switzerland before heading into the U23 World Championships. Following the Championship races, Schmidt will be heading to compete in the FIS World Cup races in Minneapolis, USA.
“It was such an amazing day, it hasn’t really hit me yet,” said Schmidt. “It was also so great to see all my teammates do so well, I think today was a huge step for Canadian Cross Country Skiing, and I hope that this result inspires the next generation of skiers”.
“Our goal was to qualify an athlete for the semifinals today,” said Eric De Nys, Nordiq Canada’s Next Gen Coach. “When we saw her win her semifinal, we knew today was going to be special.”
“It was unbelievable. We had athletes and staff gathered near the finish, and when she crossed the line, it was pure joy. We couldn’t have been prouder to be Canadian.” said De Nys.
The young Canadian team of cross-country skiers will continue their push for medals at the Championship event in the upcoming 10 km interval start and 20 km mass start events. The Championship event continues until February 9, 2024.
Canada’s Lilliane Gagnon (Quebec City, Que.) finished in 8th in today’s race with a time of 2:37.92. Teammates Jasmine Drolet (Rossland, B.C.) and Amelia Wells (Saanich, B.C.) were 33rd and 36th in the qualifiers.
Finland’s Hilla Niemela took silver with a time of 2:36.30 And Norway’s Maria Hartz Melling took bronze with 2:36.38.
In the Men’s race, Norway’s Aleksander Elde Holmboe and Matz William Jenssen took gold and silver with times of 2:15.78 and 2:15.92 with American John Steel Hagenbuch taking bronze in 2:16.49.
Canada’s Derek Deuling (Whitehorse, Yukon) was the lone Canadian in the quarterfinals, finishing in 24th with a time of 2:17.99. Teammates Luke Allan (Ottawa, Ont.) and Sasha Masson (Whitehorse, Yukon) were 31st and 34th.