Canada has nominated eleven cross-country skiers to wear the maple leaf in the upcoming Olympic Winter Games at PyeongChang 2018.
The Olympic team is a mix of six experienced veterans and five hungry rookies.
Leading the pack will be Canada’s most successful cross-country skier outside of the Olympic Games, Alex Harvey. He just won his 27th World Cup medal on Sunday, the second time he stood on a World Cup podium this season. The two-time Olympian had a career year in 2016-17 when he earned five World Cup podium finishes, including three golds, and finished third overall in the World Cup standings.
At the 2017 World Championships, Harvey became the first Canadian to win an individual world championship title, taking gold in the 50km mass start. A month before the worlds, Harvey had been part of Canada’s first ever World Cup medal in the men’s 4×7.5km relay.
He contributed to Canada’s best-ever Olympic results by a team of Canadian male cross-country skiers at Vancouver 2010. He missed the podium in the 50km mass start by half a second and finished fourth in the team sprint with Harvey.
Valjas’ breakthrough season came in 2012 when he earned a silver and two bronze medals on the World Cup circuit. Valjas captured his first World Cup victory during the 2016-17 season in the team sprint with Harvey in Toblach, Italy. After dealing with knee problems in the lead up to Sochi 2014, Valjas is hoping to better display his potential in PyeongChang.
Newcomer Johnsgaard is one of four cross-country skiers from Canada’s north named to the team. He’ll be joined by fellow Yukoners Dahria Beatty and Emily Nishikawa as well as Jesse Cockney, who hails from the Northwest Territories.
Cockney recorded his best individual World Cup results in December 2012 when he finished ninth in the free sprint. He has continuously shown to be a world-class sprinter, finishing an impressive 10th in the classic sprint at the PyeongChang test event in February 2017, and breaking into the top 10 of the free sprint at the World Cup Finals in Quebec City in March 2017.
Cockney is headed to his second straight Games, as is Graeme Killick. After a top-30 finish in the 50km mass start at Sochi 2014, Killick continued his international progression, competing at his first FIS World Championships in 2015 and helping Canada to a 10th place finish in the 4x10km relay.
Olympic rookie Russell Kennedy rounds out the men’s team. Kennedy is well-known as a top competitor in the Nor-Am Cup. He was named the overall champion of the 2016-17 Nor-Am Cup circuit, and went on to reach the podium in all five of his January 2018 starts, winning two gold and three silver medals.
Nishikawa is returning for her second Olympic Games. She is a two-time overall champion of the Nor-Am Cup circuit. At the 2017 World Championships, Nishikawa, Beatty and Cendrine Browne helped post Canada’s best world championship result in the women’s relay since 2001. Like Beatty, Browne will be making her Olympic debut in PyeongChang.
Anne-Marie Comeau completes the women’s squad. After two years away from cross-country skiing, she decided in late 2017 to take a shot at making the Olympic team and earned her spot with two Nor-Am Cup podiums in January 2018. Both of those races were won by Browne.
Cross-country skiing at PyeongChang 2018 will start with women’s 15km skiathlon on February 10. Events will continue to run until the final day of the Games on February 25.