Xavier McKeever and Alison Mackie Fight for 13th at Nordic Junior World Ski Championships at Whistler Olympic Park
WHISTLER, B.C.—Canada’s Xavier McKeever and Alison Mackie matched 13th-place finishes in the men’s and women’s 20-kilometre classic cross-country ski races at the Junior World Ski Championships in Whistler, B.C. on Monday.
The 19-year-old McKeever headed to the front of a long big train of 65 junior skiers charging out of the stadium, working their way up and down the relentless terrain at Whistler Olympic Park.
“The pace was hot off the start and I did what I could to hang on,” said the Canmore, Alta. resident. “I struggled a bit. I felt like I was having a harder time keeping up with the double poling sections and I wasn’t making up any ground on the downhills.”
The young Canuck was in the thick of it for the first 7.5-kilometres before dropping off the leading pace, with two groups of five separating themselves from the field midway through the second lap.
Doing some soul searching while heading out for his third of four laps, McKeever found another gear to maintain his position at the front of the second chase group through to the finish line.
“I had red lined for a bit in the second lap, and then the skis started coming to me in the last two laps and I started to come back alive,” said McKeever. “This obviously is not quite the result I wanted, but I’m happy I found a way to recover in the race and be able to fight for 13th.
“Competing at a World Championships at home is all a big learning for me. I am still developing and this is all good experience. To go through that mental stage today, and recover from it, is a great takeaway.”
Norway’s Mathias Holbaek won the junior men’s distance race with a time of 53:05.7. Finland’s Niko Anttola skied to the silver medal at 53:15.4. Norway’s Kristian Kollerud clocked-in at 53:33.8 for the bronze.
Ottawa’s Luke Allan finished 36th at 57:46.3. Raleigh Tarte, of Kimberley, B.C., skied to 47th (59:11.3), while Garrett Siever, of Kelowna, B.C., did not finish.
Earlier in the day the youngest member of Team Canada, Alison Mackie, enjoyed a breakthrough performance in the women’s 20-kilometre mass start classic cross-country ski race.
The 17-year-old completed four trips around the five-kilometre loop at Whistler Olympic Park in a time of 1:03:26.9 for 13th place.
“It is amazing. I never would have expected this,” said the Edmontonian, who was the top Canadian woman for the second-straight day.
Starting near the back of the field of 53 skiers in the chaotic mass start, Mackie wasted no time navigating her way into the lead group where she skied for her first lap.
With a group of nearly 10 skiers breaking off the front, Mackie worked her way at the front of the second chase group for the next 10 kilometres of the nordic marathon for junior level skiers.
“The mass start is always a little bit rough. I was really lucky I was able to stay out of the mess,” said Mackie. “I was in a good pack, working together and taking our turns at the front. It was really cool I was able to ski with that group of girls, going at a good pace and even catching the leaders a bit.”
With the lead group breaking away in the final charge for the medals, the chase group also began to stretch out with the young Mackie holding her own, and scrapping in every stride for a respectable top-15 result.
“When we kind of broke apart in the last lap, it was my goal to stay with the leaders of that pack. I was really proud of myself that I was able to do that,” said the elated member of the Edmonton Nordic Ski Club who is coached by Ulf Kleppe.
Mackie hammered the double-pole after diving down the final corner into the stadium to the finish.
“I wanted to stay in it. I was partly trying to catch the Italian and also make sure the Finnish girl didn’t come up behind me,” added Mackie.
Norway’s Miila Andreassen and Sweden’s Lisa Eriksson bolted away from the field, skiing alone for the final two laps.
It was the Norwegian who captured the World Championship title, crossing the finish line with a golden time of 1:01:17.6. Eriksson was 21.2 seconds back with a silver-medal time of 1:01:38.8.
Finland’s Eevi-Inkeri Tossavainen won the chase for the bronze at 1:01:51.5.
It’s been quite a month for the young Mackie who has been chalking up career best finishes at the Nordiq Canada Selection Trials in Prince George and at this week’s World Juniors – all while balancing her Grade 12 studies.
“It’s been amazing month and I’m having so much fun. I just love skiing so much,” said Mackie, who will also represent Team Alberta at the Canada Winter Games in February. “This is a great confidence boost for me. I know I’m up there with some of the best juniors in the world which is crazy. This is all beyond my wildest dreams.”
Other Canadian results included: Constance Lapointe (Whitehorse) in 21st at 1:05:12.4; Anna Stewart (Thunder Bay, Ont.) in 34th with a time of 1:07:27.8; and Alexandra Luxmoore (Revelstoke, B.C) placing 40th at 1:09:48.0.
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