Canada’s Development Squad Gains Valuable World Cup Experience in Slovenia
Cross Country Canada —CCC readies next generation of Olympians with solid race experience—
PLANICA, Slo—The results may not be close to getting on the World Cup podium, but they are providing valuable feedback for coaches and officials that Canada’s next generation of Olympians are heading in the right direction in their continued development into elite cross-country skiers.
In a strategic move to provide their development level athletes with valuable World Cup race experience, Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada suited up a team of young sprinters for this weekend’s races in Planica, Slovenia as the nation’s best took the week off to recover from the grind of the Tour de Ski.
“The B-Tour this year was designed to focus on our top under-25 athletes, enabling them to gain experience in challenging races in Europe,” said Tom Holland, high-performance director, Cross Country Ski de Fond Canada. “We have normally done the B-tour in late February but with Ski Tour Canada being in early March this year, we looked to the OPA races and World Cup weekends in January as a good competition plan for this season.
“The six athletes on this Tour will get up to four weekends of solid high level racing and will also get to race with older and more experienced Canadian athletes on the World Cup and Senior Development Teams. This will be good preparation for their major objective this season, which is the Ski Tour Canada.”
While finishing well back of the podium, the young Canucks were on target for top-30 finishes.
Canada suited up two men’s and two women’s squads for the team sprint on Sunday. The team sprint consists of two semifinal heats with the top-two teams in each heat advancing to the final along with the next six fastest times. Athletes each ski three laps, handing off to their teammate after each loop.
None of the Canadian teams were able to advance, but they did enjoy a day of solid racing finishing in the middle of the pack. Knute Johnsgaard (Whitehorse) and Toronto’s Lenny Valjas formed Canada 1, while Jesse Cockney (Canmore, Alta.) and Andy Shields (Kitchener, Ont.) made up Canada 2. Both teams, who were lined up in a deep semifinal heat of 17 teams, kept pace with the lead group until the midway point of the race. Johnsgaard and Valjas crossed the line ninth to finish 16th overall, while Cockney and Shields finished 22nd overall after placing 13th in their heat.
Italy’s Dietmar Noeckler and Federico Pellegrino won the men’s race. Renaud Jay and Baptiste Gros, of France, skied to the silver, while their countrymen Valentin Chauvin and Richard Jouve claimed the bronze medal.
It was a similar story in the women’s race for the Canadians who also finished midfield. Maya MacIsaac-Jones (Athabasca, Alta.) and Dahria Beatty (Whitehorse) formed one duo, while Cendrine Browne (St-Jerome, Que.) and Emily Nishikawa (Whitehorse) were the other Canadian entry.
Nishikawa, who has been enjoying a solid season as a World Cup regular, and Browne placed eighth in their semifinal heat to finish 15th overall, while MacIsaac-Jones and Beatty crossed the line in 10th to finish 19th overall.
“The women fought hard but it will take some more racing at that level to get used to the speed,” said Chris Jeffries, coach. “These World Cups are definitely focused on development, and hopefully they will take some really good lessons to their training in preparation for the Ski Tour Canada races in March and the coming years.”
Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter and Stina Nilsson won the women’s race. Norway’s Heidi Weng and Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen were second, while Germany’s Sandra Ringwald and Hanna Kolb rounded out the women’s podium.
The Canadians also competed in a skate-ski sprint race on Saturday. Len Valjas finished just outside of the top-30 for the head-to-head heats in 31st to lead the way. Knute Johnsgaard was 54th, while Andy Shields qualified 56th, and Jesse Cockney 61st.
Maya MacIsaac-Jones and Dahria Beatty also narrowly missed securing a spot in the heats with the top-30 qualifiers. MacIsaac-Jones qualified 31st, while Beatty finished on her teammates heels in 32nd. Emily Nishikawa was 39th, while Cendrine Browne clocked the 42nd fastest time.
“Our goal for this group was to be competitive in the European FIS races, which they did, and start to approach the top-30 in World Cups which is where athletes start to earn World Cup points,” added Tom Holland. “So far, this Tour is on track with meeting those objectives. They are gaining confidence and are motivated for more World Cup starts, including incrementally improving their World Cup ranking so we are pleased with their progress.”
The squad now heads to Nove Mesto, Czech Republic, where they will join Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey for a series of races next weekend before returning home to prepare for the Ski Tour Canada.
CCC is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal winter 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, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas, and Mackenzie Investments – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium and B2Ten, CCC develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on CCC, please visit us at www.cccski.com.
Men’s Team Sprint Results: http://medias1.fis-ski.com/pdf/2016/CC/2218/2016CC2218RL.pdf
Women’s Team Sprint Results: http://medias3.fis-ski.com/pdf/2016/CC/2217/2016CC2217RL.pdf
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