A Sea of Blue in Nova Scotia at Cross Country Relay Awards

A sea of blue at the cross-country relay medal ceremonies. Quebec, BC and Alberta take the podium in both men's and women's races

The blue jackets of BC, Alberta and Quebec dominated the award ceremony creating a sea of blue to conclude the Canada Winter Games cross country competitions held at Martock.

Saturday saw the conclusion of the cross country ski events at the Canada Winter Games.  After a day of rain, the temperatures dropped to create ice chunks mixed with fresh snow.  Races were held under partially sunny skies with extremely windy conditions. 

In the Women’s 4×3.75km event, Andrea Lee of BC brought her team in first with a 16 second lead followed by 15 year old Alberta skier, Maya Macisaac-Jones . Yukon’s Beatty was only 6 seconds back to keep the Yukoner’s in  third and Quebec 8 seconds out of the medals.  By the second classic leg, the medallists were clearly decided with BC strongly out in front.  Quebec’s Workun-Hill had the fastest time of the second leg bringing her team into second and Alberta close behind in third.  Yukon fell back to duke it out with Ontario and chase the leaders.

By the fourth leg, BC was clearly in gold medal contention whereby only a serious mishap could change their victory.  The silver medal was fought to the line by Alberta’s Widmer and Quebec’s Bouffard-Nesbitt, with Quebec just edging out a weary Alberta.  Veteran Nishikawa couldn’t reel in the leaders in spite of her earlier CWG successes.  However, cross country fans should keep an eye open on the young Yukon team at the next Canada Winter Games to be held in Prince George, BC in 2015.

Women’s Relay Results

  1. BC           :43:51.0                (Lee, Mehain, Reid, Marshall)
  2. QC          +36.6                     (Pepin, Workun-Hill, Auclair, Bouffard-Nesbitt)
  3. AB          +39.7                     (Macisaac-Jones, Hewitt, Hicks, Widmer)
  4. YK           +1:16.3
  5. ON         +2:05.9
  6. NL           +7:14.0
  7. MB         +7:59.7
  8. SK           +8:41.9
  9. NWT      +8:59.4
  10. NS          +12:55.7
  11. NB          +15:17.6

In the Men’s 4x5km relay event, Alberta carried on their winning ways leading nearly from start to finish.  The team of Garnier, Killick, Sandau and Cockney looked comfortable after a strong lead was created by classic skiers Garnier and Killick. Ontario crashed in the first 1.5km and spent the rest of the race trying to catch up. Team Yukon was in the mix through the first lap with BC and Quebec chasing.  By the third leg, Quebec and BC were battling for silver and bronze with Yukon and Ontario chasing to get back in the mix.  Previous medalists Shields and Somppi fought valiantly but couldn’t make up the nearly 2 minute difference. Spectators raced to the stadium area to watch Alberta cruise in for gold, and Quebec’s Richard out kick BC’s Neumann for silver.  Watch for the young Newfoundland and Labrador who with their young team placed 6th with 14 year old Konrad Kuhne of Labrador City as their anchor. Watch for this team at the 2015 CWG in Prince George as 3 of the 4 athletes will still be eligible to compete.

Men’s Relay Results

  1. Alberta                 :52:24.8                (Garnier, Killick, Sandau, Cockney)
  2. QC                          +13.6                     (Turgeon, Couturier, Lloyd, Richard)
  3. BC                           +14.5                     (Wylie, Burton, Richards, Neumann)
  4. YK                           +1:48.4
  5. ON                         +2:09.1
  6. NL                           +6:02.2
  7. SK                           + 6:21.7
  8. MB                         +9:09.3
  9. NWT                      +10:18.4
  10. NB                          +14:59.4

Cockney and Marshall Win Four Medals at Canada Winter Games

Alysson Marshall of British Columbia during one of her four Gold medal wins at the 2011 Canada Games in Halifax

Both Cockney and Marshall finish off the Canada Winter Games with their fourth medal while helping their respective provincial teams gold medal in the relay events.

Jess Cockney of Canmore, Alberta, started the week off with a bronze medal in the individual start 10km skate event last Monday.  He then went on to earn gold in both the 1km skate sprint and 15km Classic event.  He led his relay team as the first skier in the relay to assist his team with gold.  Three gold and one bronze, not bad for a week’s work.

Alysson Marshall of Salmon Arm, BC was competing in her 3rd Canada Winter Games.  Three times a charm as she went on to silver in Monday’s skate race, and then followed up with three gold medals in each of the final 3 races.  In the final competition of the week, Marshall anchored her relay team to comfortably earn gold ahead of Team Quebec and Team Alberta.

Both athletes train out of the Alberta World Cup Academy, in Canmore under the tutelage of coaches Mike Cavalier and Chris Jefferies.  Their next event is the 2011 Haywood Ski Nationals from March 12 to 19th on their home course in Canmore Alberta.

Nova Scotia cross country skier survives downhill crash to finish the race

Marie Soehl of Nova Scotia finishes the 10km Classic after downhill crash

Marie Soehl of Nova Scotia survived a hairy crash on the cross country downhill course and still finished the race. Soehl (pronounced soul) slipped over the edge of the race course much like the Olympic skier Petra Madjic did last year. However, tree branches caught her skis and arm to keep her from slipping vertically upside down into a ravine.

Soehl hung there for over 2 to 3 minutes while her dad, a ski patrol, a coach from Manitoba, and another onlooker helped to free her from the carnage. Once her skis were taken off her feet, she was pulled up the ravine.  She  immediately put her skis back on and carried on with the race.

She finished the 10km classic event in a respectable time in spite of the fall and the upper body injuries she endured. Marie finished in 46th place out of 54 competitors with a time of 41:17.6. Marie Soehl showed great determination and inner strength to finish the race.

Alberta Men Sweep podium in Cross Country

Action was exciting in Martock under a cloudless sky and unseasonably warm temperatures.  The Atlantic wind subsided today and classic skiers needed to apply klister wax in order to get grip in the quickly melting corn snow.

In the Men’s 15km classic race, seven men were bunched up for the first 5km.  The lead pack jostled back and forth for the entire first lap.  Somppi of Ontario and Couturier of Quebec couldn’t stay in touch with the lead pack.  With the pack down to four skiers, the Alberta boys were able to break away from BC’s Matt Wylie.  Any one of the skiers could have won gold going into the finish.  Cockney continued his winning ways outsprinting Killick and Sandau.  Only 1.3 seconds separated gold and bronze.

In the 10km Classic race, the women racers bottle necked on the2nd narrow uphill just outside the stadium.  The top three women broke away from the pack mid-race when the top skier, Alysson Marshall of BC started to push the pace.  They were all able to hang on to their medal positions right to the end with Marshall in first, Emily Nishikawa in 2nd and new comer to Canada Winter Games medals, Andrea Lee in third.  This is the third medal for Marshall and second gold.  Nishakawa earned her third medal of the games.

In Para standing, Ontario finally broke into the medals with Gabriel Denis earning his first silver medal.  Slade Doyle of Brandon Manitoba, who is new to the sport, had his first classic technique lesson yesterday and it was enough to give him the win.  Louis Fortin finished 3rd.

Gorbounova of Ontario won her third gold medal in Para Standing with Mary Benson of BC squeeking in for her first medal of the games, and Courtney Knight earned bronze. This is Courtney’s third games medal.

Day three of Para Sitski saw a repeat of medal winners with Quebec’s Sebastien Fortier dominating yet again, ahead of Lou Gibson of BC and newcomer to cross country racing, Yves Bourque winning his third bronze of the games.

Gauthier of Quebec double poled her way to a gold in the Women’s Para Sitski ahead of Christy Cunningham of Ontario and Kelsi Paul of Saskatchewan.

The Canada Winter Games concludes with the able-bodied relay events on Saturday.  Men race 4x5km and women 4×3.3km.  There will be no events for Paranordic on Saturday. Closing ceremonies for the games are on Saturday evening.

A Boy amongst Men

Although Gabriel Denis was ineligible to win a medal in his first two races, this young athlete has shown outstanding Sportsmanship throughout these games and life in general.

Gabriel Denis is 17 years old from Matheson Ontario, a small town outside of Timmins.  Denis started cross country skiing three years ago and has improved dramatically during that time. Born with cerebral palsy, Gabriel’s balance and speech are affected.  Since Balance is such a crucial component of cross country ski technique, it makes his efforts so much more remarkable.

Denis is competing in the Paranordic Standing competition.  Unfortunately, he only has two other competitors and both are double his age. Because there are less than four in his category, when finishing in third place, he is ineligible to receive a medal.  Gabriel Denis has finished 3rd in both races he has competed in here at the Canada Winter Games.  In Tuesday’s Sprint Qualification round, he did have the 2nd fastest time, but finished 3rd in the final head to head competition.

Not to down play the efforts of his two competitors, as their efforts are equally remarkable with each of them with a story of their own. However, Gabriel has not allowed the Canada Games technicality to get him down. You can always find him with a smile, a joke to share and a positive comment.  He is a positive role model for the whole Ontario Cross Country contingent and is respected by his coaches and peers for his outstanding “sunny” attitude.  When at home in Matheson, Gabriel volunteers with his community Volunteer Fire Department along with jumping in to help his community in other ways as well.

Gabriel Denis dreams of qualifying for a future Paralympics after finishing college.  I have no doubt that if positive attitude and a great work ethic are the recipe to success, then this young man will achieve his goals.

If the Canada Games gives out Sportsmanship awards, this young man should be first in line.

Different race, different colour: Cockney, Marshall, Widmer and Nishikawa all earn second medal of the Games

Alberta's Jess Cockney wins gold at 2011 Canada Games

Athletes battled head to head to crown the Canada Winter Games Sprint Champions. Coming off a 6th place finish at the World U23 Championships in Estonia less than a month ago, Jess Cockney of Canmore, Alberta showed he still has it by winning the men’s 1000m free event today.

Using the skate technique, Cockney narrowly outsprinted Ontario’s Andy Shields to the finish with his teammate Graeme Killick finishing in the bronze position. First place Qualifier Matt Wylie of Vernon, BC managed a 4th place finish overall. Cockney raced to a bronze medal in yesterdays distance event.

In the women’s event, three time Canada Winter Games veteran, Alysson Marshall of Enderby, BC continued her medal winning ways with a gold today. Junior skier Heidi Widmer of Canmore Alberta placed 2nd out sprinting Emily Nishikawa of Whitehorse. All three athletes earned their 2nd medal of the games but just a different colour.

Fifteen year old Maya Macisaac-Jones of Athabasca Alberta finished the day in 7th. The spritely youngster was unable to hold off her older competitors as she did in the qualification round where she finished in 3rd just 2.2sec back.

In Paranordic Standing, Ontario’s Gorbouova made a decisive move on the inside corner mid-course to overtake her competitors and win gold. BC’s Courtney Knight finished in second and Erica Noonan helped Newfoundland earn some points for her third place finish.

Quebec’s Sebastien Fortier earned his second Para Sitski gold medal by out double poling Lou Gibson of BC. Gibson was followed by new Para Sitski racer Yves Bourque of Quebec. All three earned their second medal of the games.

In Women’s Para Sitski, Christy Campbell couldn’t make up the time percentage differential and had to settle for 4th position. Winning gold was Christine Gauthier of Quebec with Saskatchewan’s Kelsi Paul taking Silver and her first medal of the games. Tanya Quesnel of Sudbury Ontario earned her 2nd bronze of the game.

Competitors and volunteers have a much needed day off Wednesday and racing will resume Thursday with Classic Mass Start distance events.

Flurry of Activity on Cross Country Women’s first day of racing

Alysson Marshall of British Columbia comes in second to earn silver at the Halifax 2011 Canada Games

A flash flurry of snow descended on the Women at Martock just as they were starting their race. The snow did not slow the fast pace of Emily Nishikawa of the Yukon as she completed the 7.5km Free Technique course in 15.5 seconds faster than BC’s silver medallist Alysson Marshall. Third place was taken by junior athlete Heidi Widmer of Alberta.