Canmore’s Devon Kershaw became the third Canadian male to win a world cup cross-country ski race after he won a skate-ski sprint race at the prestigious Tour de Ski in Toblach, Italy on Wednesday (Jan. 5).
Kershaw, 28, was forced to settle for the silver medal on the weekend in Germany (see page 39) after being edged out at the finish line by an inch, but got some redemption in Italy by winning the fifth stage of the eight-race Tour de Ski for his first World Cup victory.
“I’m thrilled. I’m more than thrilled. I absolutely cannot believe it,” said Kershaw in a Cross-Country Canada press release. “Justin (head coach Wadsworth) kept telling me all year to be patient and the win would come. I wanted to believe him and I just kept staying with the plan. This is just unreal.”
The two-time Olympian from Sudbury, Ont. has turned in stellar performances over the past week after racking up a gold and two silver medals in five races on the Tour de Ski, doubling his career medal total, to put him in second spot overall.
“I had the best skis in the world today. Our technicians are the best in the business and are the key to these podium results,” said Kershaw in the press release.
Kershaw came within a fraction of a second of reaching the Olympic podium in 2010 when he finished fourth in the 50-kilometre event. “My goal coming into the Tour was to have two really good races and I already have three. I have never been so concerned with the overall title, I just want to have some good results because this event is such a long haul.”
Kershaw qualified 14th for the round of 30 head-to-head heats where the top two athletes in each heat move on to the next round. Kershaw won his quarter-final heat and earned a spot in the finals after being determined one of two lucky losers in the semifinals. The two fastest times outside of the top-two athletes in each semifinal also advance to the grand final.
Kershaw made a move on the biggest climb of the 1.3-km track, then went on to edge out Dario Cologna of Switzerland and Norwegian Petter Northug for gold.
Kershaw’s victory makes him the third Canadian male to win a world cup race in cross-country skiing. The legendary Pierre Harvey, father of 22-year-old Alex Harvey of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que. who finished 14th on Wednesday, won two world cup races in 1987 and 1988. Ivan Babikov, of Canmore, who finished 52nd and did not qualify for the heats today, won the final stage of the Tour de Ski in 2009.
“I have a lot of confidence right now, but success starts with leadership,” said Kershaw. “Justin has been a key leader for us all season. He has taught me to be patient and today that patience paid off in the way the races unfolded. The old Devon would have went crazy to be in fifth spot in that final today. He has changed me as a skier and I am just so happy for our entire team right now.”