Three Canadians in top 10 of 30 km pursuit 

Best Olympic finishes ever by Canadian men in cross country

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Though medals remained elusive for the Canadians in the Callaghan Valley their breakthrough Olympic performances in cross-country skiing has put this team on the map.

Three Canadians finished in the top 10 in the men's 30 km pursuit Saturday, a grueling cross-country race, where racers compete the first 15 km in classic, followed by a change to skating equipment for the last 15 km.

The two-man team of Devon Kershaw and Alex Harvey followed that result up with a fourth place finish in Monday's team sprint.

"What we did today is probably going to stay in the history books for some time - three in the top 10 and phenomenally close to the lead," said George Grey following Saturday's pursuit. Grey placed eighth, just behind teammate Ivan Babikov who was fifth. "So, what a day is all I can say."

Babikov was just 9.1 seconds behind the lead, with a time of one hour, 15 minutes 20.5 seconds.

Grey's time was 20.6 seconds off the lead, with a time of 1:15:32.

Before this, best result by a Canadian man was 14 th place at the 1988 Calgary Games.

This is a sport dominated by powerhouse teams from Norway, Russia and Sweden but now Canada has made its mark.

"We are ecstatic," added Grey, who was seeded 41 st going into the race. "If anyone's going to be crying today, it's going to be tears of joy. We are aiming high for the medals but we are the underdogs and what we did today is historic and it felt great and I couldn't have asked for more."

Devon Kershaw couldn't help but express his disappointment in his 16 th place finish, though he was pleased by the team's performance as a whole.

"To have thee Canadians in the top 10, they're my teammates, wow, it's something pretty inspiring," he said.

"We trained really hard to have days like today so hopefully we can keep it going."

The finish means that the team is feeling good as a whole.

"The spirit's in the house," said ninth place finisher Alex Harvey, the youngest team member at 21 years old.

It's his dad, Pierre Harvey, who is still Canada's most successful cross-country skier ever and it was his 14 th place finish at the Calgary Games that was the record prior to Saturday's competition.

The race got underway under bright blue skies and a beaming sun deep in the Callaghan Valley - a picture perfect day.

Thousands of spectators watched the race unfold in their T-shirts and sunglasses.

For the Swedish fans, however, this was a race to remember, with Marcus Hellner taking the gold medal and Johan Olsson the bronze.

"It was amazing, it was amazing," said Jonas Kjall, a Swede who lives in San Francisco.

"It was so fun to see. They really skied like a team."

Olsson was the first to break from the pack at the 15 km mark, just after the skiers had changed their skis and poles. He held the lead for the majority of the rest of the race while his teammates jostled with the pack.

"Of course it was tough for me to go solo for 15 kilometres when I heard all the time my teammates were behind me trying to disturb the order, disturb the rhythm of the group," said Olsson.

"Right now we have a very good spirit of give and take on the team."

The gold medal winner, Hellner, echoed that spirit.

"The feeling is good," he said of his win. "When one of my best friends is on the podium the feeling is even better."

Tobias Angerer of Germany took the silver medal, which pleased Pemberton spectator Uli Brand, carrying both his German and Canadian flags.

"The silver medal today, it was just great. I didn't expect it but I'm happy about it," said Brand.
"But the Canadians also did very, very well. They're really good. So hopefully next time they'll win."

Monday's men's team sprint was won by Norwegians Oeystein Pettersen and Petter Northug. The German team of Tim Tscharnke and Axel Teichmann was second and Russians Nikolay Morilov and Alexey Petukhov took the bronze medal.

The Canadian team of Sara Renner and Daria Gaiazova were seventh in the women's team sprint. The gold medal went to Germans Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle and Claudia Nystad. Swedes Charlotte Kalla and Anna Haag took the silver medal and Russians Irina Khazova and Natalia Korosteleva captured bronze.

 

 

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