Xavier McKeever and Jasmine Drolet Shine in Top-10 at Nordic World Junior Ski Championships
LYGNA, Nor.—Canada’s Xavier McKeever and Jasmine Drolet battled to top-10 finishes in the men’s and women’s short distance classic-ski individual start races at the Nordic World Junior Ski Championships on Friday.
McKeever, of Canmore, Alta., rattled off his third top-10 finish in as many races this week with a sixth-place finish, while Drolet (Rossland, B.C.) posted her top result at the ultimate event for junior cross-cross-country ski athletes by finishing eighth. Both athletes clocked the top-time in their legs during the team relay events on Wednesday.
The 18-year-old McKeever was on the podium hunt again in Lygna, Norway clocking a time of 27:08.2 in the men’s 10-kilometre event.
“I’m happy with how things went today. I have been anticipating this race for a while now so for it to go well was amazing.” said McKeever. “I approached it with a ‘nothing to lose’ attitude. My plan was to start hard and hold a high pace for as long as possible. I had a great first lap and then started to get a bit tired for lap two, but I did get a good ride from the Finnish skier who finished second so was able to hang onto him until the end.”
Competing in his third World Juniors at just 18 years old, McKeever is looking to become the fourth Canadian ever to win an individual medal at the Nordic World Junior Ski Championships. He was fifth in 30-kilometre race, and fourth in the relay in his two previous starts this week.
“I am stoked to be in the top-10 again. I was getting splits that I was close to the podium in the first lap, but I just couldn’t keep the high pace that I started with. Honestly, I feel like the podium is still a fair bit away, but today just motivates me more to make the steps toward being able to contend for a medal,” added the composed teen, who was disappointed with his results at the 2021 World Juniors.
“I have been able to build my confidence over the course of this season. After last year, it was instrumental for me to refocus on putting in the hard work each and every day, which I think has helped
me race with more confidence than ever before.”
McKeever, whose dad Robin is en route to Beijing, China to lead Canada’s medal-winning Paralympic Team that includes his Uncle Brian, was 30 seconds off the podium pace.
Russsia’s Saveliy Korostelev won the gold with a time of 26:15.8. Finland’s Niko Anttola finished 21.4 seconds back in the silver-medal position at 26:37.2. Alexander Ivshin, also of Russia, was third at 26:38.0.
Three other Canadians were in the men’s field. Max Hollmann (Thunder Bay, Ont.) skied to his first top-20 finish of the week in 17th at 27:44.6. Derek Deuling (Whitehorse) placed 19th for his second top-20 result, clocking a time of 27:47.3. Calgary’s Tom Stephen was 26th at 27:55.8.
Jasmine Drolet also had one of the strongest results ever by a Canadian woman in the World Championship five-kilometre classic-ski race. The 19-year-old consistently posted splits in the backend of the top-10 throughout her one loop on the Norwegian trails and crossed the finish line in eighth spot with a time of 14:51.6.
“I felt pretty good. I really like classic skiing and my goal was to give it all I had,” said Drolet, who is competing in her fourth World Junior Championships. “You only ski the lap once, so the key was to just go hard the whole time. We had amazing conditions, perfect for classic skiing so it was a good day.”
Marie Josee-Pepin is the only Canadian woman to win a World Junior cross-country ski medal when she claimed the silver at the 1989 Championships.
Drolet was just 21.5 seconds off the gold-medal mark posted by Russia’s Dariya Nepryaeva (14:30.1). Elizaveta Bekissheva, also of Russia, posted a second-place time of 14:33.0. Norway’s Emma Kirkeberg Moerk skied to the bronze medal (14:34.1).
Ottawa’s Jasmine Lyons was the next best Canadian woman in 26th (15:33.4). Sarah Cullinan (Thunder Bay, Ont.) was 44th at 16:04.3. Tory Audet, who skis out of Chelsea Nordiq, placed 59th at 16:38.3.
The Under-23 sprints in the free technique are slated for Saturday, followed by the junior sprints on Sunday.