Team Canada Skis into New World Cup Season in Finland
RUKA, Fin.—Team Canada shook off the early season rust in their first World Cup distance race of the season in Ruka, Finland.
Katherine Stewart-Jones was the bright spot for the Canucks, battling her way into the top-25 in the women’s 10-kilometre individual start classic-ski race.
“Katherine had a very good race and shifted her focus well from yesterday where she had to deal with some equipment issues and was a bit out of sorts,” said Robin McKeever, National Team Coach for Nordiq Canada’s Olympic stream.
The 27-year-old skied strong and steady through each of her two, five-kilometre loops. Stewart-Jones was skiing at a 30th-place pace until the midway point of the race where she began picking up spots in the standings.
The Chelsea, Que. skier clocked-in at 26:08.8, 79 seconds back of the leading mark.
Ebba Andersson’s time of 24:49.6 could not be beat. The Swede was crowned with the first distance title of the new Olympic quadrennial.
Frida Karlsson finished 5.7 seconds behind her teammate at 24:55.3 for second place. Germany’s Katharina Hennig clocked-in at 25:02.9 for the bronze medal.
Stewart-Jones was joined in the women’s field by two of her 2022 Olympic teammates – Dahria Beatty and Olivia Bouffard-Nesbit. Beatty, of Whitehorse, placed 44th at 27:09.4. Bouffard-Nesbitt, of Morin Heights, Que., skied to 47th with a time of 27:25.1.
“My goal for all of the athletes this weekend was to focus on good preparation and process,” added McKeever. “Our plan is to focus on skiing well as they know how and see the results after. These first races are essentially relearning how to race again.”
Two Canadian Olympians – Graham Ritchie and Olivier Léveillé – suited up for the men’s 10-killometre classic-ski race. Ritchie, of Parry Sound, Ont., skied four seconds shy of the top-30, placing 35th at 23:15.0. Léveillé was 44th. The Sherbrooke, Que. product stopped the clock at 23:22.0.
“Graham is way ahead of where he was at this time last year, and both he and Olivier are in tight to the top-20 so I am looking forward to seeing them go tomorrow,” added McKeever.
They will be tasked with closing the gap to the Norwegians who swept the men’s podium. Johannes Klaebo took top spot with a time of 21:46.1. Paal Golberg skied to the silver medal at 22:06.6, while Martin Nyenget completed the medal haul for the Norwegian nation, placing third at 22:14.1.
The season-opening World Cup continues on Sunday in Ruka with the 20-kilometre pursuit races.