Antoine Cyr and Katherine Stewart-Jones Storm into Top-15 at Cross-Country Skiing World Cup in Norway
LILLEHAMMER, Nor.—Antoine Cyr and Katherine Stewart-Jones each threw down one of the best races of their World Cup cross-country skiing careers, striding into the top-15 against a deep international field in Lillehammer, Norway.
Cyr (Gatineau, Que.) finished just five seconds off the leading pace in 12th of the men’s 20-kilometre classic-ski mass start race. Stewart-Jones (Chelsea, Que.) was 10 seconds off the winning women’s mark while smashing her career-best result after crossing the finish line in 13th.
The youngest member of the Nordic squad, Olivier Léveillé of Sherbrooke, Que., was also 10 seconds back of the men’s race winner in 27th.
‘This feels awesome,” said Cyr, who was sick last week, forcing him to miss the season opener. “I needed this one bad. My morale was so down last week. I wasn’t sure where my shape was so this one is for all of the support staff. It shows I’m still in the game.”
It sure does.
The 24-year-old skied with calmness and poise while tactically working his way in a large pack that stuck together for each of the six loops on the Norwegian trail, posting a time of 48:19.6.
“It was such a chaotic race. You had to fight for every position in the pack,” added Cyr, who credited the advice of four-time Olympian, Devon Kershaw, for inspiring the strong performance.
Now living in Norway, Kershaw played a support role to the Canadians on Sunday.
“He just told me when you are skiing in a large group to look at the guys around and see if you’re skiing the smoothest and calmest, that is where you will get some confidence. It gave me a lot of power and juice that I needed.”
Competing in just his third year on the World Cup, Cyr went stride-for-stride with the greatest names in the sport on a course that is challenging to drop skiers. Cyr put the hammer down in the long finishing stretch to grab precious spots in the pack and secure his second-best result ever.
“This is a big result. I skied very well,” he added. “There was a downhill about two kilometres out, and then a long, gradual uphill about one kilometre to go in the stadium. If you weren’t completely out of gas you could take a step back and see the pack open. I saw an opening, went as hard as I could and moved up a few spots.”
Cyr is part of a new generation Canadian skiers loaded with potential and belief they can compete for the World Cup podium. He teamed up with Graham Ritchie at the 2022 Olympics where the Canadian duo put down an impressive fifth-place finish in the team sprint event.
Another Olympic teammate, Olivier Léveillé, also showcased his talent on Sunday. The 21-year-old was also in the large pack of the top skiers on the planet jostling for position in the chaotic dash for the finish.
The young Quebecer was the fifth fastest athlete under 23 years old, clocking-in at 48:24.4 for 27th – just 9.9 seconds from the gold medal time.
The Norwegians swept the podium while finishing eight in the top-10.
Paal Golberg ended up on top at 48:14.5 when the dust settled at the finish corral. Sjur Roethe was second at 48;15.4, while Martini Nyenget snagged the bronze medal at 48:15.6.
The Canadian squad is feeding off each other’s success early in the new Olympic quadrennial.
Katherine Stewart-Jones also had the race of her life, rocketing to a 13th place finish of 54:02.1 in the women’s 20-kilometre mass start.
“It was great to see the standout results from the whole team today,” said the 2022 Olympian. “Toni (Antoine) had an insane race. The staff always work so hard to give us fast skis every day, and you see the excitement in the whole team when you do well, everyone just wants to work that much harder.”
Feeding off one of her most consistent starts to the World Cup season and the energy in the program, Stewart-Jones exercised her race tactics to near perfection, finishing just 10 seconds shy of the top time on the day.
“It feels pretty awesome, and it was a really fun race,” added Stewart-Jones. “It was tight from start to finish in super-fast conditions so there was lots of yo-yoing happening.
“I knew from the start tactics would be important. I knew that I had to pass in a smart way and not waste energy, so I held into the pack and waited for someone to go and made my move then.”
Stewart-Jones kicked it into top gear from the midway point of the race until the end, breaking away from the field with a large group of 20, dropping one athlete at a time through to the finish.
“It is so hard to get away on this type of course. I knew I had fast skis which allowed me to relax on the downhills. We went pretty much full out from the third lap on. I’m proud of how I skied,” added Stewart-Jones who has always been strong in mass start races. “I’m confident in my fitness and know that if I can make smart moves then I can have a good result.”
Sweden’s Frida Karlsson won the surge for the gold medal with a time of 53:51.9, edging out Norway’s Tiril Weng who placed 53:52.5. Ebba Andersson, of Sweden, was third at 52:53.1.
Canada’s Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (Morin Heights, Que.) was 43rd at 57:58.7. Dahria Beatty (Whitehorse) did not finish.
Stewart-Jones and her Canadian comrades will look to build off the breakthrough performances next weekend when the World Cup travels to Beitostolen, Norway.
“It’s been really good to be super consistent. I am confident that I have really good shape, and (this result) gives me the confidence I can trust my body,” said Stewart-Jones. “It’s been so fun on the World Cup this year. We have an awesome crew. The team dynamics are really good, and it is so fun.”
Nordiq Canada is the governing body of para nordic and cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 60,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Swix, Lanctôt Sports and Pembroke – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium, Nordiq Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on Nordiq Canada, please visit us at https://nordiqcanada.ca.
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