Yukon cross-country skiers are continuing to showcase their speed and skills on the international stage with Derek Dueling and Sasha Masson competing at the 2022 Nordic World Junior Ski Championships in Lygna, Norway.
The championships got underway Feb. 22 and will continue until Feb. 27.
The Canadian men’s team came just shy of the podium Feb. 23 in the 4x5 relay event, Nordiq Canada stated in a press release.
On the team for that race was Masson, Félix Olivier-Moreau, Xavier McKeever and Tom Stephen, skiing to a combined time of 50:10.5, less than a minute behind the USA men’s team, which took the bronze with a time of 49:38.8.
Silver went to Norway, which finished in 49:38.2 while Russia took the gold in 49:16.4.
“We are all quite satisfied being in fourth, but then also disappointed that we weren’t on the podium,” Masson said following the race. “I’m just super proud of the entire Canadian team.”
McKeever also reflected on the race, noting that while the result was bittersweet, it also marks Canada’s second-best relay result at the World Juniors, and that is something to be proud of.
McKeever and Stephen were also part of Canada’s silver-medal squad at the 2020 World Championships, Nordiq Canada pointed out.
“I think being fourth, and saying it is bittersweet, really shows how far our program has come. We all did our part today,” McKeever said.
Olivier-Moreau took the first leg, skiing steady and was in eighth place before McKeever took the second leg, moving up to third spot before Masson took on the third leg.
The Russians, Norwegians and Americans pushed the pace, but Masson dug deep to try and hold onto the tail end of a surge by the leaders, Nordiq Canada said.
Skiing in fourth spot with the Swede’s fading behind him, Masson tagged off to Stephen for the anchor leg.
“Xav (McKeever) tagged me with the American and we skied a lap and a bit with the Russian (and Norwegian),” Masson said. “The Russian pushed on the one-skate hill. The American and Norwegian were able to go with him, but I just didn’t have the legs to hang on today.”
Nordiq Canada said Stephen tried to put the pedal down, but wasn’t able to respond to the surge by the top-three nations who pulled away in a fight for the podium.
The relay event followed the 30-kilometre mass start Feb. 22, where the two Yukoners cracked the top 20 of 74 skiers.
Cracking the top 20
Dueling finished the mass start in 17th with a time of 1:16:39.9, with Masson coming in just seconds later at 1:16:46.8 in 18th spot.
McKeever and Stephen finished in fifth and seventh respectively, McKeever with a time of 1:14:02.4 and Stephen with a time of 1:14:06.
It was the Russian team that ultimately took each of the podium spots with Alexander Ivshin skiing to gold with a time of 1:12:47.9, Savelly Korostelev taking the silver with a time of 1:12:56 and Nikita Denisov taking bronze with a time of 1:12.59.9.
Skiers will continue competing in more events in the coming days.
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