Canada’s Alex Harvey Opens World Cup Cross-Country Ski Season in Eighth
Cross Country Canada – Cross Country Canada — Harvey posts personal best sprint result at World Cup in Finland—
RUKKA, Fin.—Canada’s Alex Harvey began his 10th season on the cross-country skiing World Cup with a personal best eighth-place sprint finish at the season-opener in Rukka, Finland.
The leader of the Canadian squad from St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que. shook off the early season nerves and put up a strong fight against the top cross-country ski sprinters in the world on the 1.4-kilometre classic-sprint course.
“I’m now 30 years old and I have the same excitement for the first race of the season as I did the first time I hit the start line on the World Cup,” said Harvey. “You just never really know how you’re positioned against the rest of the world until get on the line. I was really happy with my result today. It is the best sprint result I have ever had in Rukka. The body felt good and the equipment was great.”
Harvey squeaked into the head-to-head heats with the fastest 30 athletes on the day after posting the 25th fastest qualifying time.
A course notorious for its short, steep kickers, the three-time Olympian charged his way up and down the rolling terrain through his opening quarter-final where he crossed the line in second spot. With the top-two athletes in each of the six heats moving to the next round, Harvey had a match with some of the greatest names in the sport in the semis.
Skiing in fifth spot for most of his semifinal round, the Canuck grinded his way around the hard-packed and fast course to stay in contact with the leaders. A late charge down the finishing stretch allowed him to grab one more spot on the pack, but it wasn’t enough to advance, leaving him in eighth spot overall on the day.
“The steep hill on this course is the key. I’ve never been the snappiest on the hills, so I was happy with the effort and the result,” added Harvey.
The hills and world’s best skiers weren’t the only battle Harvey was faced with on Saturday. Staying sharp while racing in the dark was no small challenge of its own.
“In the sprint you always have to be snappy, aggressive and have positive thoughts. That is hard to do when it is dark outside. It is easy to start feeling tired,” said Harvey. “I drank lots of coffee today and tried to stay energized to fight the darkness.”
Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov won the sprint battle under the lights in Rukka. The Russian topped a trio of Norwegians in the final heat. Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo finished in second place. Eirik Brandsdal grabbed the final step on the men’s podium in third, leaving his teammate Emil Iversen on the outside looking in.
Three other Canadians suited up at the season-opener but did not qualify in the round of 30. Julien Locke, of Nelson, B.C. placed 69th; Andy Shields, of Thunder Bay, Ont., was 75th, while Russell Kennedy, of Canmore, Alta., was 76th.
No Canadian women are competing in the World Cup in Rukka. The Canadian men will be back on the start line for a 15-kilometre classic-ski race on Sunday.
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