CANMORE, Alta.—Antoine Cyr and Katherine Stewart-Jones solidified their position as the top distance skiers in the country after winning the classic-ski interval start distant races on Saturday at Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park.
Both already pre-Qualified for the 2022 Olympics based on their steady results on the World Cup, the two Quebecers were steady in one of their final tune-up races before heading to the Beijing Games.
Cyr, of Gatineau, Que., handily captured his second-straight victory. The 23-year-old took advantage of ideal race conditions where he completed his four, 3.75km loops in a time of 41:12.0.
“This was a really good course for me. The 15km classic is my favourite so I just focused on skiing well and doing my thing,” said Cyr, who also won the skate-ski sprint race on Thursday. “My focus was on skiing long and powerful and keeping a steady pace. That is key to being fast on a course like this. I’m super stoked.”
Cyr was a machine while powering alone through the solid and consistent tracks.
The next best finisher was Remi Drolet, of Rossland, B.C., who finished 26 seconds off the leading mark. The 21-year-old Drolet stopped the clock at 41:38.0.
“It feels really good. This has been my main focus. I was really happy with my race today and happy I was able to put up a hard fight,” said Drolet. “I was very nervous coming into today. I think the past two weeks I have been the most nervous that I have ever been, but I’m going to keep working hard to get my name into consideration for that alternate Olympic spot.”
Russell Kennedy, of Canmore, Alta., turned in a solid performance on his home trails, completing the 15-kilometre test in a time of 41:48.8 to secure the final step on the podium.
Calgary’s Tom Stephen was the top male under 20 with a time of 42:24.0.
In the women’s 10-kilometre individual start classic-ski race, Katherine Stewart-Jones edged out her friend and teammate, Dahria Beatty, for top spot on the podium.
The lone Canadian woman to have locked up an Olympic spot, the 26-year-old Stewart-Jones punched the clock at 34:29.6 in her first race of the week.
“I still put a lot of pressure on myself even though I knew I had the spot because I wanted to prove myself today,” said Stewart-Jones, of Chelsea, Que. “I put a lot of training in the last few weeks, so I wasn’t 100 per cent sure of my form. It feels good to be able to perform even when I’m not feeling my absolute best. It is a confidence booster for me and was a good day.”
Canada’s lone women’s Olympian in the field, Dahria Beatty, bounced back after a difficult opener in the sprint race. The Whitehorse resident put her name into consideration for a return trip to the Olympics after finishing .5 seconds behind Stewart-Jones at 34:30.1 for second place.
“I didn’t feel like I skied to my potential on Thursday. I refocused on today and just knew I had to go out there and not think about the result, but just give it everything I had,” said Beatty. “It is such a tough course, so you just have to push your body to the limit which is the fun part of ski racing – seeing what you are capable of.
“Katherine and I went for a ski yesterday afternoon and reminded ourselves of what makes ski racing fun and not let the pressure get the better of us. We said we wanted to go out there and finish one-two today and not really worry about what the order was. We went out there, pushed hard, and were able to do that. It is a huge relief and I’m just really happy I was able to ski a race I was proud of.”
Cendrine Browne, of Saint-Jérôme, Que., rounded out the women’s podium in third with a time of 34:50.2.
Jasmine Drolet, of Rossland, B.C, was the fastest women’s skier under 20 while clocking the fourth-fastest time of the day with a time of 34:57.3.
Complete qualifying and heat results can be found at https://zone4.ca/race/2022-01-08/0519e798/results/
The National Trials continue on Sunday with the 15- and 30-kilometre individual start skate-ski races.
Nordiq Canada has an Olympic quota of four female and three male athletes for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games. To date, one female and three male athletes have met the Olympic criteria. The four races at the Olympic Trials will be used to select the remaining three female spots, as well as alternates for both genders. Five athletes from each gender will also be named to the World Junior Team and the Under 23 Team.
The Olympic Trials selection criteria and process, including the prioritization of Trials races, has been updated in the 2022 Olympic Winter Games Selection Criteria in the Document Centre on the Nordiq Canada web site.