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Cross Country Canada —Julian Smith, Antoine Cyr and Graham Ritchie earn spots into head-to-head heats—

LAHTI, Fin.—The Canadian men’s squad surpassed its goals at the Nordic Under-23 World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland by securing three spots in the head-to-head heats, and two finishing in the top-20.

Making his second trip to the U23 World Champs, Julian Smith of Thunder Bay, Ont. enjoyed a bittersweet day finishing in 19th place. Two Canucks making their first appearance at the U23 level also qualified for the head-to-head heats with the fastest 30 qualifiers. Antoine Cyr, of Gatineau, Que., secured the final spot in the top-20, while Graham Ritchie, of Thunder Bay, Ont., was 26th.

Qualifying for the heats in 22nd spot, Julian Smith was strong throughout the opening quarter-final round. Bouncing around within the pack of six up and down the rolling terrain on the 1.6-kiometre Finnish track, Smith ran out of steam double-poling down the finishing stretch where he crossed the line fourth in his heat.

Only the top-two finishers in each heat advance to the next round, along with the next two fastest times known as Luck Losers. Smith finished .18 of a second off the pace to secure one of those positions.

“It is a great day and I’m so proud to be racing and representing Canada again at the World Championships, but it stings a bit too because I was so close to moving on,” said Smith, who added the Canadians were hoping to have at least one in the heats heading into the day. “I’m happy with how I skied. I felt good and I executed my tactics well. It was great to have three of us in the heats today.”

Smith was matched against his teammate and friend, Graham Ritchie, in the opening round. Ritchie, who led the red and white in qualifying after clocking the 19th fastest time, wasn’t able to carry the momentum into the heats and crossed the line sixth to finish 26th overall. 

“I felt so good in the qualifier. I executed my tactics perfectly but, in the heats, I wish I was able to do a few things different tactically,” said Ritchie. “I had great skis. This is a good day for our team and I’m excited for the rest of the week.”

Antoine Cyr, of Gatineau, Que., also put in a strong effort in his quarter-final round. Crossing the finish line of his heat in fourth place, Cyr held onto one of the two lucky loser spots until his teammates hit the course, dropping him to 20th spot.

“I felt really good out there and strong tactically,” said Cyr. “I was really happy with my performance today I skied the quarter-final as planned, and I executed everything really well. Being in my first year as a U23, I am happy and will be back for some more – that’s for sure.”

Norway’s Erik Valnes won the men’s race. Russia’s Sergey Ardashev was second, while Joachim Aurland, also of Norway, skied onto the bronze medal step of the podium.

Gareth Williams, of Kelowna, B.C., placed 52nd.

None of the Canadian women qualified for the heats.  Sadie White, of Thunder Bay, Ont., finished just short of the top-30, qualifying in 35th.

Marie Corriveau, of St-Ferreol-Les Neige, Que., finished three spots back of her Canadian comrade in 38th. Hannah Mehain, of Vernon, B.C., was 49th, while Natalie Hynes, of Whitehorse, placed 55th.

Sweden’s Moa Lundgren captured the women’s crown. Lundgren topped Norway’s Tiril Udnes Weng who sprinted to the silver medal. Russia’s Aida Bayazitova claimed third spot.



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Chris Dornan

Media and Public Relations

Cross Country Ski de fond Canada

T: 403-620-8731