Kershaw Delivers Powerful Golden Message at World Cup in Russia
Canada’s Devon Kershaw skied into the history books as the second Canadian ever to win a full World Cup cross-country ski race, capturing the gold medal in the men’s 15-kilometre mass start skate-ski race in Rybinsk, Russia on Saturday.
Battling through the bitter Russian cold, the 29-year-old Sudbury, Ont. native skied into the winner circle after punching the clock in a time of 36:47.5.
“It only took 10 years but I got it,” said Kershaw. “I can’t explain it. The body is just feeling super god. I’m in good shape but I’m just having a lot of fun.”
No Doubt he is.
The win is his third consecutive podium, and second this week, since coming off the Tour de Ski where he finished fourth overall. The two-time Olympian became the second Canadian male to jump onto the top step of the men’s World Cup podium behind Pierre Harvey who captured three victories in 1987 and 1988. Kershaw, and teammate Ivan Babikov, also have victories at the Tour de Ski.
Speaking of Harvey, Pierre’s son Alex, of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., who won the World Championships last year with Kershaw didn’t have such a bad day himself, finishing fifth with a time of 36:53.0. Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., was 17th (37:01.1).
“There is lots of positives today,” said Kershaw, who claimed the gold in a skate-ski sprint race in Toblach, Italy 13 months ago on the Tour de Ski. “This is my first distance win. My first distance skate-ski podium so I have now reached podium in every discipline and distance.”
While it may be one of the most grueling sports in the Olympic line-up, Kershaw is making it look easy. The colourful Canuck had complete control of the pack in his six trips around the 2.5-kilometre loop in Russia, working his way to the front of the group, and making the decision to drop back to conserve energy on his own will. With 500-metres to go after climbing to the top of the final hill back into the stadium, he was determined to add another chapter in the Canadian cross-country skiing history books that he has rewritten over the last two years.
“I got to the top of that last climb in third and I looked around and said ‘I’m going to take this one,” said Kershaw while on the bus to the medals ceremony in downtown Rybinsk. “I felt so comfortable today in the pack. I just knew at the top of that hill I was going to win. That is a really good feeling.”
Kershaw blasted by Russia’s IIia Chernousov who finished second at 36:48.4. Germany’s Tobias Angerer grabbed the bronze with a time of 36:49.1.
Kershaw and his male Canadian teammates first captured the nation’s attention at Whistler Olympic Park in 2010 when three of them finished in the top-10 in the Olympic pursuit race, in addition to delivering seven top-10 performances as a unit throughout the Games. Overshadowed by the men’s gold-medal hockey game, Kershaw put down one of the gutsiest efforts in Canadian Olympic history when he missed the podium by a fraction of a second to finish fourth in the 50-kilometre classic-ski race on the final day of the Games.
Kershaw and his teammates built on that success the following year when he and teammate Alex Harvey became the first Canadians to win a World Championship gold in Oslo, Norway. Kershaw proved he is one of the most consistent all-round skiers in the world in last year’s thrilling Tour de Ski – a punishing format that tests the world’s best all-around skiers with nine races in 11 days – where he captured one gold, two silver and one bronze medal.
“To reach the podium in every World Cup discipline and distance is a pretty powerful message,” said Kershaw. “It is a testament to the work our program has done as a whole, the support team we have in place and the great athletes on our entire men’s and women’s team. The work we have all done together is something that I’m most proud of.”
Kershaw’s gold now brings his career World Cup medal total to 10 in addition to his World Championship title. It is the seventh World Cup medal of the season for the Canadians, which includes Alex Harvey’s silver in the penultimate stage of the Tour de Ski.
In addition to the string of medals, the Canadian squad has been silently building another historic streak this season. The Canucks have combined to place oneathlete in the top-five of every World Cup stop this season, including the overall at the Tour de Ski.
“This demonstrates the consistency and high level this team is at each day,” said Justin Wadsworth, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team. “For Devon having three races and three podiums is pretty remarkable. We knew he was in good shape, but this is another level.”
Kershaw and the Canadians will look to continue their run on Sunday in Rybinsk whenthey hit the start line for a skiathlon race.
No Canadian women competed on Saturday.
Contributed by Chris Dornan, Cross-Country Canada