High hopes for Canada in cross-country skiing went for naught again Friday, as balmy weather threw this country’s athletes and technicians a curve they swung at and missed.
By the 2 p.m. local start time, temperatures were pushing 11 C at the Laura Cross-country Stadium—a spaghetti-like course of trails on an alpine ridge—producing slushy conditions that sent teams scrambling to choose the right skis and wax.
Alex Harvey, the no. 4-seeded skier in the 15-km classic, chose wrong.
“I had slow skis,” said the 25-year-old from Mont Ste. Anne, Que., who dropped out of the race after 10 km. “I was with two guys and I could climb with them. But as soon as I went on the downhill, I slowed down. So I decided to pull the plug.”
When asked about the wax he’d chosen, Harvey shrugged and said he’d left it to team technicians. “They’re humans,” he added. “They make mistakes too, and today I guess they made a mistake.”
The conditions produced surprising outcomes for those who read them correctly, with Dario Cologna, a strong but unseeded Swiss skier, taking gold with a time of 38:29.7, while silver went to Sweden’s Johan Olsson, who started just before Cologna.
Sweden’s Daniel Richardsson, seeded 11th nabbed the bronze. In doing so, he edged out an unheralded Finnish skier named Iivo Niskanen by just 0.2 seconds
Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont., seeded 16th, finished 35th, 41:17.1, while the Russian-born Canadian Ivan Babikov, who also lives and trains in Canmore, came in 39th. Graeme Killick of Fort McMurray, Alta. wound up 65th.
The outcome adds to Canada’s disappointment last week with results in the skiathlon, where Harvey’s 18th-place finish was the best by a Canadian. In that race, the skiers felt like they lacked the necessary purchase on the snow; they must now try to regroup for Sunday’s 4x10km relay, and more importantly, the team sprint next Wednesday.
“We’re world champions in that discipline,” Harvey said. “So we’re pretty excited about it. But we’ll need the right equipment, for sure.”