GANGWON, Korea – Leanne Gartner of Canmore was part of Canada’s best-ever relay results in cross-country skiing at a Youth Olympic Winter Games.
Competing at her first international competition, the 18-year-old skier and Team Canada took sixth place in the mixed relay event in Gangwon, South Korea, which is the world’s largest multi-sport event for high-performance athletes aged 15-18, from Jan. 19 to Feb. 1.
Canada’s 4X5km relay of Gartner, Eamon Wilson, Aramintha “Minty” Bradford and Cedric Martel crossed the finish line at a time of 54:25.9 – edging out Italy and Finland by less than five seconds each.
In 2012, Canada’s mixed relay finished 13th overall.
“In the past, Canada, compared to the European countries, was not quite on that same level on the international circuit, but recently … it really shows that we're really moving out as a country in the sport,” said Gartner.
New to big race events, Gartner was the first leg in the mass start relay and tagged Eamon Wilson in ninth place. Wilson got to eighth when he tagged off to Bradford, who darted the Canucks up the ladder to sixth when she tagged off to Martel, who hung on to the spot until the finish.
“It was very intense,” said Gartner. “We started out at just a ridiculous pace and I held on to the lead group until about the three kilometre mark then they started tugging away, but it was amazing being in with all those people from all the different countries with skiing style was super different and it was just really amazing being in with all of them.”
Individually, Gartner placed 29th in the women’s sprint freestyle and 22nd in the 7.5km classic at the Alpenisa Biathlon Centre.
Despite the relay result, Gartner said that her racing highlight was in the 7.5km classic, feeling strong after having “dead legs” in the sprint race the day prior.
“I was feeling super awesome in that race,” said Gartner. “It was kind of a perfect racing date, to be honest.”
Injury forces Canmore alpine skier out of YOG
Sierra Coe of Canmore dropped out of the YOG due to a season-ending knee injury.
The 17-year-old alpine skier tore her ACL and MCL after a bad wipeout Jan. 2 skiing giant slalom at the Stratton Nor-Am Cup in Vermont, USA.
During the second run, Coe got hooked by a racing gate panel and was whipped to the ground hard. The injured skier was taken off the hill on a sled and straight to the urgent care centre on the mountain.
“There wasn’t any meniscus damage, which is good, but I had a pretty bad fracture on my lateral femur head as well,” said Coe, who expects to be back skiing in October.
“I think at first it was pretty tough to wrap my head around it, but I’ve started to kind of accept it a little bit more each day, which is pretty good. I’ve worked with the physio and sports psych here at Burke and I’m focusing on all the other things that I can be doing despite my leg injury.”
In a leg brace and using crutches to help with walking, Coe watched the YOG live-timing text for the races she was to compete in, rooting for her teammates from Canada and Burke Mountain Academy.
“It was definitely a little bit upsetting that I wasn’t able to go, but I can’t really change the outcome and this situation that I’m in right now, so just being able to cheer on those other girls made me happy even though I couldn't ski and be there with them,” said Coe. “I think that’s a really big part of it. Even though I’m injured I can still stay involved with the sport.”
After reconstructive surgery in early February, Coe is working in the gym to gain strength in the meantime. She said she feels like progress is already being made.
Next year, Coe plans on doing a post-grad year at Burke to focus on skiing and achieving her ultimate goal of making the national ski team.