Victory Marks First Canadian Men to Win Medals at World Championships
Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw skied into the history books as the first Canadian males ever to win a medal at the Nordic World Ski Championships after capturing the gold in the team classic-ski sprint relay on Wednesday in Oslo, Norway.
In a thrilling race at the birthplace of the sport in Norway, with more than 50,000 screaming fans who have been camped out all week alongside the trails, it was the 22-year-old Harvey who electrified the crowd by edging out one of their own heroes – Ola Vigen Hattestad – at the line to win gold with a time of 19:10.0.
“This feels absolutely amazing to win the real World Championship medal and not just the World Juniors,” said Harvey, who added that he and Kershaw were quickly escorted to meet the King of Norway immediately following the race. “The Norwegians have like 100 World Championship medals and we won our first today for Canada. To do it at the birthplace of the sport is incredible.”
“It is a dream come true and to do this in in Norway is amazing,” said Kershaw. “I was nervous heading into the World Championships and this race, but we did it. I’m just so happy.”
After qualifying for the finals with the top-10 teams, which consists of two athletes who each race three times around the 1.5-km track while handing off to their partner following each leg, the 28-year-old Kershaw (Sudbury, Ont.) led the Canadian duo into the finals.
Skiing at the back of the lead pack for the first half of the race, Kershaw gradually picked away at the field where he handed off to Harvey in third spot at the final exchange and watched the native of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que. reel in the world’s best in his final trip around the challenging Oslo track and double-pole like mad to the gold medal.
“Devon handed off to me in a perfect position. I just skied my stride and picked my lines,” said Harvey. “With 300 metres to go I knew where I wanted to be on the last downhill. I have been practicing it all week and then I just went as hard as I could to the finish. It was just incredible with all those people going crazy.”
“This was such a team effort. Even the guys not racing today played a key role in training in helping us get ready.”
The only other Canadian cross-country ski athlete to win a medal at the World Championships was Sara Renner, of Canmore, Alta., who won the bronze in a classic-ski sprint race in 2005.
The Norwegians finished second at 19:10.2, whileRussia grabbed the bronze with a time of 19:10.5.
It was a sweet victory for the Canadians who made a courageous move to sit out of Tuesday’s 15-kilometre classic-ski race, which is Kershaw’s strength.
“It was such a tough decision that we made as a team because that is my favourite event, but we did it because we knew we had a shot at a medal today,” said Kershaw. “To have it pay off and come out on top with the gold is just a dream.”
The decision was made by Harvey and Kershaw, along with head coach Justin Wadsworth, who has helped guide the Canadian men to record results all season.
Kershaw became the third Canadian male ever to win a World Cup race in January at the Tour de Ski where he also twice skied to the silver-medal position on the podium, and to a bronze. Earlier this month Harvey became the first Canadian ever to win the Under-23 World Championships after winning the gold in the pursuit race. Two weeks ago, Harvey also captured his third World Cup medal when he won the silver at a skate-sprint race in Drammen, Norway.
“This season has been so fantastic and today just adds to it,” said Kershaw. “I really can’t believe it. But to do it today with Alex who is a really great friend means a lot to me and I’m really happy.”
Meanwhile, earlier in the day the Canadian women’s duo of Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., and Perianne Jones, of Almonte, Ont., were no slouch in their bid for the podium. The two young Canucks teamed up to finish sixth in the women’s race with a time of 20:11.9.