It would not be surprising
if, a few years from now, we wind up considering today as a turning
point of sorts for the sport of cross country skiing in Canada and possibly
North America. This would be the result of two major contributing factors:
The performances of the North American skiers and also because it was
such a great event from a ski fanís point of view.
First, credit should be given
to the athletes who made the day what it was: Beckie Scott and Sara
Renner taking first and third. Those results speak for themselves. Other
notable performances included Phil Widmer qualifying fourth and the
other North Americans that made the top 30 and even a few others who
came very close. This list includes names like Crawford, Theriault,
Wagner, Crooks, Goldsack, Cook, Newell, Koos, Jeffries, Jones and Flora
( I apologize if I left anyone out). These people gave us all
something to be excited about. The people who organized the event
deserve a huge thanks. The whole weekend went exceptionally well from
an organizational point of view. The weather, (-5C) and sunny could
be said to have provided the icing on the cake. Together, these elements
created a magnificent spectacle. There was fast and furious racing,
an excellent race course and great crowd involvement.
As for the racing I will try
to provide a synopsis of how the heats unfolded. From a general standpoint
it was interesting to note some differences between the style of racing
employed by the women relative to the men. In general, the women
tended to keep the pace high, while the menís heats, particularly
later on, involved a fair bit of gamesmanship and less than top-level
speed. Also, it appeared that the womenís races involved actually
a bit more physical contact than the menís. At various times spectators
were witnesses to poles and skis being stepped on as well as women leaning
on and pushing against each other to some degree.
In the womenís event the
semi-final that included Scott, Renner and Bjoergen provided much excitement.
Scott controlled the race from the front. A photo finish between Renner
and Pedersen for second place proved to be too close to separate so
five women went to the final. Bjoergen simply found herself too far
behind too late in the race and was unable to overtake the three ahead
of her for a spot in the final. This set the stage for the final that
included both Scott and Renner. This time Scott was forced to make her
way to the front on the second major climb. All the racers were still
basically together coming into the home stretch but nobody was able
to erase the small lead that Scott had created for herself. Second
went to Kuenzel, with Renner taking third much to the delight of spectators.
Henkel took 4th and Pedersen 5th. The promising
Chandra Crawford wound up 10th, Wendy Wagner was 21st
and Milaine Theriault was 25th.
In the menís race an unfortunate
uphill fall involving Trond Iversen and Thobias Fredriksson in the semi
final resulted in neither one making it to the final. The final was
essentially a battle between ďbig gunsĒ Tor Arne Hetland and Bjoern
Lind, with Hetland edging Lind in the last meters of the race. Ove Vigen
Hattestad of Norway took third, with Mikael Oestberg (on some special
speed-skate style boots and bindings) fourth. The US men did very well
with Newell in 11th, Cook in 12th, Koos in 14th.
The Canadians had Sean Crooks in 25th, Phil Widmer in 26th,
and Drew Goldsdack in 28th.