Alta States 

Paradigms on the prowl - new Nordic champions light the way


"[My dad] just told me to have fun, and remember with skiing, why I do that-that I do it for fun. For sure, I want to win, but if you don't have fun, you are never going to win."

New Nordic World Champion, Alex Harvey

They're the New Crazy Canucks. Bold and playful - almost brash with their joie-de-vivre. Easy to be around too. But committed. Tough. Professional. And they don't bow down to anyone. Not the Russians. Not the Swedes. Not even the Norwegians...

They're the high-stepping members of Canada's national Nordic Team. And they've been on a serious roll of late. Consider what Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey accomplished last week at the World Championships in Oslo.

It was almost like watching Read and Pod and Co. kicking butt in Kitzbuhel 30 years ago. The parallels are spooky. There they were, in Norway's Holmenkollen Stadium - like Austria's Streif piste, a shrine to high-performance skiing - playing air-guitar for the crowd after a shocking come-from-behind sprint at the most hotly contested event at the World Champs. And they did it in the most magnificent way possible...

Back in Canada, the superlatives started flying around like golf balls at a driving range. "Canadians Shock The World"; "Stunning Victory at World Champs"; "Canuck Duo Surprises With Historic Gold." From The Globe & Mail to the Vancouver Sun , from CBC to CTV, everyone was scrambling to get on the boys' bandwagon.

For those who'd been paying attention though, the victory wasn't so much a shock as a vindication. This is what I wrote last March at the end of the Olympic party: "While most of the country was salivating at the thought of the upcoming gold-medal hockey game last Sunday, some of us were watching Devon Kershaw and his under-funded teammates challenge the world's best in the world's toughest ski test.'"

And then I went on to describe the valiant battle the Canuck upstarts had waged against the heavily favoured Euros. "Arguably the most brutal and demanding event on the Winter Games schedule, the 50k classic is considered the new plus ultra of the Nordic world. So what the heck was Kershaw thinking? There he was, with only a dozen kilometres to go, still stalking the leaders. And he wasn't alone. Rossland's George Grey was just a few skiers back and charging..."

It was probably the biggest story that wasn't covered at last year's Games. "It was so close," I wrote. "Kershaw didn't let up. He fought until the very end. Gave it all he had - and then some. It was an incredibly heroic performance. After two hours of slogging across hill and dale in 99 per cent humidity, he crossed the finish line [in fifth] less than TWO SECONDS behind the winner. Still, Kershaw was devastated. "To be that close to gold," he said choking back tears, "it's a very bitter pill to swallow..."

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