ULRICEHAMN, Sweden â€” Canada earned a bronze medal in the men’s 4×7.5 kilometre relay on Sunday, the first time in the history of the program that Canada has reached the podium in a men’s World Cup cross-country ski relay.
Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont., Alex Harvey of Saint Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., Toronto’s Len Valjas and 24-year-old World Cup rookie, Knute Johnsgaard of Whitehorse to clocked a bronze-medal time of one hour six minutes 48 seconds to take third.
“Winning individual races is awesome, but to stand on the podium with four guys from your country is the greatest feeling in the world,” said the 34-year-old Kershaw. “The relay is the only way to show the depth of program. Our team is on a shoe-string budget right now â€” especially compared to the rest of the world.
“We have been given every opportunity to fail and we are still doing this. It is a testament to the hard work of our entire staff and team so I am doubly proud of that.”
The three-time Olympian skied the fastest opening classic leg on the new stop for the World Cup which leads the top skiers in the world on a track up and down short hills, with twists and turns through a packed stadium.
Kershaw handed off to the 26-year-old Harvey, who along with his back-to-back gold medals, and has hopped onto the World Cup podium in three straight races. Harvey won the 15-kilometre individual start race on Saturday in Sweden. He and Valjas also won gold last Sunday in a team sprint relay.
Johnsgaard was chasing down the top Nordic athletes in the world in Sweden while skiing beyond his limits in the opening skate-ski leg. He started walking away from the race course after his leg before Harvey and Kershaw told him to get back with Valjas showing promise for a podium finish.
Johnsgaard handed off to Valjas five seconds back of the leaders in seventh spot where the six-foot-seven Canandian put down a monster effort to secure the bronze.
Norway won the gold medal with a time of 1:06:47.5. The Swedes edged out Canada at the finish line with a time of 1:06:48.0.
The only other time a Canadian cross-country ski team won a World Cup relay medal came 30 years ago when a women’s foursome of Angela Schmidt-Foster, Carol Gibson, Jena McAllister, and Marie-Andree Masson won the bronze in Canmore, Alta.
The Canadian Press