DAVOS, Sui.—Canada enjoyed one of its most successful days ever as a team at a World Cup cross-country skiing stop in Davos, Switzerland on Saturday.
Sara Renner finished in ninth spot in the women’s 10-kilometre classic race, while three Canadian men, led by George Grey’s solid 16th-place finish, cracked the top-25 in the men’s 15-kilometre event.
“We are really starting to push each other as a team and it is pretty great having the maple leaf on our backs these days,” said Renner, who is returning for her first full season on the World Cup since having daughter Aria in February of 2007. “I was watching the men’s race and it was pretty amazing to see three men finish in the top-25. I don’t think that has ever happened before in Europe.”
While the Canadian men posing a triple threat on the World Cup, the top skiers on the globe are serving notice that Renner is also back and hungry for the podium.
“Today I focused on relaxing off the start and skiing big and strong, and I am happy I was able to do that,” said the 32-year-old Canmore, Alta. native, who has racked up five World Cup medals and one Olympic medal in her 13-year career. “The next thing is now to get aggressive. I know I’m close again to the podium and that is so exciting.”
With her father, daughter and nanny cheering alongside the Davos course, Renner clocked a time of 31 minutes 07.2 seconds.
“I am a different athlete now and I feel I have few opportunities to race with my family there with me so I really want to take advantage of those,” said Renner. “It felt a little like home out here today. We have spent so much time here in Davos and it was a great day.”
Renner joined her young family on the sidelines to take in the men’s 15-kilometre race where George Grey, of Rossland, B.C., matched his best-ever World Cup result.
Fresh off winning a race one week ago on the Haywood NorAm Series in British Columbia, the 29-year-old only arrived in Switzerland on Tuesday and put down one of his best all-around races en route to clocking a time of 41 minutes 37.9 seconds to finish in 16th.
“I typically haven’t done well at World Cups in November so I decided to take a different approach this year and stay home longer, do some fun NorAm events and be fresh and it seems to have worked,” said Grey who also finished 16th in a distance race at the World Cup in Canmore, Alta. in 2005. “I am tired of finishing top-40, and I believe I should be a top-15 contender out here each week. I do believe I’m ready to do more, but the World Cup is never forgiving.”
Grey was joined in the top-25 by teammates Ivan Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., and Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont. Babikov finished 21st at 41:57.1, while Kershaw was in 23rd spot (41:59.8).
“It was such a great feeling to see all of us in the top-25. That is unheard of for Canada,” said Grey. “The general feeling amongst the team is positive. Everyone is posting strong results and when you get in the top-10 regularly it is only a matter of time until someone breaks through and gets on the podium.”
Finland grabbed the top-two spots in the women’s race. Virpi Kuitunen won the gold medal with a time of 29:51.0, while Aino-Kaisa Saarinen was second (30:09.0). Norway’s Marit Bjoergen grabbed third place at 30:37.7.
Sweden’s Johann Olsson won the men’s race after setting the time to beat at 40:10.0. Germany’s Axel Teichmann was second (40:20.5), while Finland’s Sami Jauhojaervi was third (40:38.5).
The World Cup continues in Davos, Switzerland on Sunday with the men’s and women’s skate-ski sprint races. Canada’s Olympic gold medallist in the skate-sprints, Chandra Crawford, will not compete due to an ankle injury.
Cross Country Canada is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada. Its 51,000 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. Cross-country skiing is Canada’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually.
Complete World Cup Results: http://www.fis-ski.com
Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:
1. Virpi Kuitunen, FIN, 29:51.0;
2. Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, FIN, 30:09.0;
3. Marit Bjoergen, NOR, 30:37.7;
4. Justyna Kowalczyk, POL, 30:40.7;
5. Kirsten Stoermer Steira, NOR, 30:41.2.
9. Sara Renner, Canmore, Alta., 31:07.2
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
1. Johann Olsson, SWE, 40:10.0;
2. Axel Teichmann, GER, 40:20.5;
3. Sami Jauhojaervi, FIN, 40:38.5;
4. Eldar Roenning, NOR, 40:52.9;
5. John Kristian Dahl, NOR, 41:06.4.
16. George Grey, Rossland, B.C., 41:37.9;
21. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., 41:57.1;
23. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., 41:59.8.