Ritchie and Antoine Cyr Ski to Historic Fifth Place Finish in Team Sprints at Olympic Winter Games
BEIJING, Chn—Graham Ritchie and Antoine Cyr combined to deliver Canada’s best-ever team sprint result in the classic-skiing discipline at an Olympic Winter Games when they finished fifth on Wednesday near Beijing.
The 23-year-olds, who were seventh at their first Nordic World Ski Championships last year in the skate-ski format, matched strides with the fastest cross-country skiers on the planet for the historic result.
“This is so incredible to pull this off and throw down such a good result for Canada. It is overwhelming, especially to do this with such a good friend like Graham. It is really special,” said Cyr, who was struggling to find his top form earlier in the week that qualified him for the Games.
Canada has never qualified a men’s cross-country ski team for the Olympic team sprint finals in the classic-ski discipline. Devon Kershaw and George Grey were 11th at the 2006 Games. Kershaw joined forces with Alex Harvey to finish fourth in the skate-ski team sprint event at the 2010 Olympics. Harvey was eighth in the challenging team race with Lenny Valjas as his partner in 2018, which was also in the skate-ski format. Beckie Scott and Sara Renner won the silver medal at the 2006 Olympics in the classic-ski team sprint race.
“Sport isn’t a precise science. It comes with its highs and lows,” added Cyr. “It was such a disappointing start to the Olympics for me, but to finish off the Beijing Games like this is incredible.”
In the team sprint, athletes each ski three laps, handing off to their teammate after completing each 1.5-kilometre leg. The top-four teams in each of the two heats advanced to the finals along with the next two fastest times overall.
Ritchie (Parry Sound, Ont.) and Cyr (Gatineau, Que.) were rock solid while working their way up and down the punishing terrain at the Zhangjiakou National Cross-Country Skiing Centre.
With Cyr skiing the opening leg and Ritchie in the anchor position, the Canadians handily qualified for the finals after crossing the line fourth just behind the leaders and well ahead of the next best finisher in a race that puts a premium on endurance and all-around skiing.
It was a similar story in the finals. The two Canucks exercised their race tactics to near perfection working steadily in a lead pack of seven through the first four exchanges. That pack dwindled to five for the final two legs.
With Norway, Finland and Russia surging ahead in a dash for the medals after the final hand off, the Canadians were in a battle for fourth spot with Sweden until the final 1.5-kilometres where the Swedes pulled ahead, leaving the Canadian duo in fifth.
“I’m super happy and really proud of Tony,” said Graham Ritchie. “We were both able to have a great race today. It means a lot to us to not only get Canada in the final, but also in a fight for the podium. We can feel the support from back home and it really fires us up.”
When the dust finally settled at the finish line, Norway finished on top of the podium followed by Finland in the silver-medal position. The Russians claimed the bronze medal.
Earlier in the day, Canada’s Dahria Beatty (Whitehorse) and Katherine Stewart-Jones (Chelsea, Que.) suited up for the women’s team. The Canadians came up short in their bid to earn a spot into the finals, finishing 12th overall.
“I gave it everything I had and was happy with how I skied. It was a super tough race and lots of strong teams out there. It was nice to see the boys make it into the final,” said Dahria Beatty.
“It was a tough race today. I didn’t quite have the energy I wanted in the legs. I gave it absolutely everything. Dahria skied really well,” added Katherine Stewart-Jones.
The Germans won the women’s race. Sweden skied to the silver, while the Russians secured the bronze medal.
Complete Men’s Results: https://www.fis-ski.com/DB/general/results.html?sectorcode=CC&raceid=39421
Complete Women’s Results: https://www.fis-ski.com/DB/general/results.html?sectorcode=CC&raceid=39421
For complete details on Team Canada at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, please visit https://olympic.ca/games/beijing-2022/
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