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Bronze for Marlie Molinaro at the Canada Winter Games

The former Pembertonian and Whistlerite finished third in the women's 10-kilometre skate-ski race

Going into the 2023 Canada Winter Games, Marlie Molinaro wasn't content to merely take part. She wanted to win a medal. The Squamish-born athlete wasn't satisfied with placing 39th at this year's Nordic Junior World Ski Championships and left Callaghan Valley motivated for a podium finish.

Now, she has one. 

On March 3, Molinaro hustled her way to bronze in the women's 10-kilometre skate-ski race in Brookvale, P.E.I. Her time of 31 minutes and 43 seconds slotted her in behind two other Western Canadians, Alison Mackie of Edmonton, Alta. (31:25.30) and Alexandra Luxmoore from Revelstoke, B.C. (31:26.10). 

Molinaro had previously ended up fifth in the women's 7.5-kilometre classic interval start but will no doubt be pleased to have won some hardware this week. The 19-year-old currently lives in Canmore and trains out of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) after stints with the Spud Valley Nordics and Whistler Nordics earlier in her career. 

Meanwhile, Mackie earned her first gold, and third medal, of the week after a pair of top-15 World Juniors performances. 

“This feels great. I followed my race plan and skied with a pack of girls for the first three laps and then felt I was ready, and made a move,” said the 17-year-old Albertan in a press release. “My goal was to keep with the pack for a few laps and then push. I was really happy with how I followed my game plan.”

Earlier in the race, Luxmoore matched Mackie stride for stride through the 2.5-kilometre loop at Mark Arendz Provincial Ski Park. Ultimately, the Revelstoke native couldn’t equal Mackie’s surge and fell back into second place.

On the men's side

Quebec’s Xavier Lefebvre won a thriller in the men’s skate-ski race that saw a group of 15 athletes from across the country stretch to the finish line within two seconds of each other.

“It was a very flat course, so the pack didn't separate much. The last part before the descent to the finish line is very windy so no one wanted to take the lead. Before the descent I was exhausted, I was hoping to have good enough skis to stick with first and second, but my legs were too heavy to kick at the end,” said Lefebvre, who edged out his teammate Alexandre Cormier for gold.

Cormier was awarded the silver at 22:20.20. 

“I'm happy with the team performance, but I'm a little disappointed that I didn’t race tactically well. I attacked too often, and it was useless. It's the experience that comes back and I'm still hungry for a gold medal tomorrow in the relay,” added Lefebvre.

Ian Mayer of Team BC was third at 22:20.60.

Lefebvre and his fellow Francophones will likely be a dominant force in the relay, as Team Quebec has swarmed the Canada Winter Games podium all week.

“I think it's a proof that Quebec is still one of the main competitors. It's good to see the wave of talent that is coming with Alexandre Cormier, Justin Boudreau, Ry Prior, Alexandre Bourque, Tory Audet and others,” added Lefebvre. “Everyone on the team pulls each other up, and we even encourage each other during the race. We also have a very good support team that deserves thanks.”

The team relays are set for Saturday, March 4. 

Para-Nordic performances

Nova Scotia’s Emma Archibald and Logan Cox of Team BC won the women’s and men’s Para five-kilometre standing events respectively. 

Archibald, who is part of Nordiq Canada’s Prospect Team, completed her race in a time of 16:43.80. “I started off a bit sluggish today, but as soon as I got to the start line I was ready to book it. I gave it my all,” she said in a release. “It is such a great experience here. Having the Para athletes from all of the different provinces together is great.”

Madison Mullin of Team Ontario was second at 18:19.60, while Albertan Denyse Dawe came third across the line with a time of 21:50.10.

Cox won his third race of the week in the men’s Para standing classification with a time of 12:33.10.

“I’m quite happy with it. The first corner I got a glimpse of Jesse (Bachinsky), and decided to work off his pace until we got to a long ski section and made moves on people,” said Cox. “Everything went perfect for me. The skis, the conditions and my team have been great.”

Quebec’s Félix Lafond skied to the silver medal at 14:56.30. Ontarian Logan Lariviere finished third at 15:18.60.

Para-Nordic skiing has been included in the two-week Canada Winter Games program since 2011 in an effort to ensure there is relevant and competitive race opportunities for developing Para skiers across the country.