DAVOS, Sui.-Devon Kershaw led a pack of Canadian cross-country ski sprinters hungry for the podium with a fourth-place finish in Davos, Switzerland on Sunday.
After barely qualifying in the top-30 for the head-to-head heats with each of the other five Canadians entered in the men's and women's skate-sprint, the team's hopes for a medal became focused on Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., as the lone Canuck to advance to the finals.
Moving into the semifinals as the lucky loser of his opening heat, Kershaw and teammate, Alex Harvey, of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., were matched up in the second round. With Harvey on Kershaw's heels until the final stretch where he faded to the back of the pack, the 28-year-old Kershaw led the group on the second trip around the relatively flat 1.5-kilometre sprint and never looked back winning his heat in a photo finish.
Kershaw lined up shoulder-to-shoulder with the world's best sprinters for the final, but got boxed in and was not able to find room to make a charge to the podium.
"For sure it stings being in fourth but it was an amazing result," said Kershaw of his first-top-five finish of the season. "I felt so amazing in every round and in total control. I just couldn't find any room in the finals. You can only do what you can do. Cross-country skiing is so hard so finishing fourth out here is amazing."
Russia's Alexey Petukhov sprinted to the gold medal. Sweden's Teodor Peterson and Emil Joensson finished second and third respectively.
It was a historic day for the entire Canadian contingent, placing three in the top-10 for one of the first times ever. Harvey was ninth, while Kershaw's golden girlfriend, Chandra Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., was making a charge to the podium on her in the women's race.
The lone Canadian woman to secure a semifinal start, the 28-year-old Olympic champ led the pack in her heat despite getting tangled up with Justyna Kowalczyk while coming through the stadium on the final lap. Crawford couldn't hold the pace, finishing fifth in her heat and ninth overall on the day.
"I'm not sure it has ever happened for Canada to have three in the top-10," said Kershaw who has been coming into his own after a slow start to the year. "We have a super deep team and I think these results speak volume of our program. Eachweekend we have all had a top-five of our own. Hopefully one of us will break through."
Kikkan Randall, of the United States, dominated the women's field to finish on top, Russia's Natalia Matveeva settled for the silver, while Norway's Miaken Caspersen Falla finished third.
Toronto's Len Valjas finished 28th in men's racing. Perianne Jones, of Almonte, Ont., was 29th, while Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., finished 30th in the women's sprint.
Over in Sjusjoen, Norway, Mark Arendz fought his way back onto the podium for the second-straight day at the IPC Biathlon World Cup. The 21-year-old missed just one shot in four rounds of shooting on the 12.5-kilometre individual start to win win the bronze with a time of 42:36.0.
"It was a tough course but I had a good plan going in and I followed it quite well today," said Arendz, who competed for Canada at the 2010 Paralympics. "I was happy with how I skied. I'm feeling comfortable right now and I was able to close the gap on the guys on the last lap. It was good day."
Norway's Nils-Erick Ulset set the time to beat at 42:06.75. Kirill Mikhaylov finished 23.14 seconds behind for the silver medal.
It was the eighth medal in the young career for Arendz, who enjoyed a breakthroughseason last year where he finished second overall on the IPC World Cup.
"I definitely now feel like I'm one of the guys to take notice of," said Arendz. "I don't think there is one clear favourite out here, but I'm skiing with more confidence now than ever before and that is a sign of the hard training I've been doing."
Arendz will be back on the start line Tuesday in Norway.
CrossCountry Canada is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation's optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 55,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada's National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas, Teck Resources Ltd., Canadian Pacific, and Statoil along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee and Own the Podium, Cross Country Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on Cross Country Canada, please visit us at www.cccski.com
Complete IPC World Cup Biathlon Results: http://www.ipc-nordicskiing.org/Results/index.html?
Complete World Cup Results: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/1228.html?cal_suchsector=CC&;event_id=30402
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
1.Alexey Petukhov, RUS; 2. Teodor Peterson, SWE; 3. Emil Joensson, SWE; 4. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., CAN; 5. Petter Northug, NOR.
Other Canadian Results:
9. Alex Harvey, St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que.; 28. Len Valjas, Toronto
Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:
1. Kikkan Randall, USA; 2. Natalia Matveeva, RUS; 3. Maiken Caspersen Falla, NOR; 4. Hanna Brodin, SWE; 5. Laurien van der Graaff, SUI.
9. Chandra Crawford, Canmore, Alta.; 29. Perianne Jones, Almonte, Ont., 30. Daria Gaiazova, Banff, Alta.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Media and Public Relations
Cross Country Canada
High-Performance Public Relations