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Canadians get rock star treatment at Canmore World Cup

It’s a sports moment every athlete dreams about.
Canmore's Anna Parent (No. 48) begins the women's 15km mass start freestyle during the 2024 COOP FIS Cross Country World Cup at the Canmore Nordic Centre on Friday (Feb. 9). JUNGMIN HAM RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – It’s a sports moment every athlete dreams about.

For Canmore-raised athletes like Xavier McKeever, Sam Hendry, and Anna Parent, snapping in their skis and taking on the top skiers on the World Cup has always been part of the plan, but racing at home in front of friends and family was something special.

The 2024 FIS COOP Cross Country World Cup had thousands of spectators watching the fast-paced action at the Canmore Nordic Centre from Feb. 9-13, where the hometown love was felt by all the Canadians.

“Coming over the top of the stadium there I just heard my name in big screams,” said Parent. “That’s where I was going fastest because I saw all the Canadian flags and I recognized people's voices that I knew, so that was really, really cool.”

The 23-year-old skier, the daughter of former Olympian Rhonda DeLong, was all smiles after her World Cup debut. 

Parent’s best results were a pair of 41st places in the 15km mass start and freestyle sprint races.

“I think I probably skied these courses the most out of anyone here, since I grew up here, so I definitely had the home course advantage. I think it paid off,” she said.

Parent, like the rest of the Canadians, had a rockstar reception with the World Cup in town, receiving big cheers during races and signing autographs and getting photos with fans afterward.

Canada’s Katherine Stewart-Jones and Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt are the only two remaining Canadians who raced at the 2016 World Cup in Canmore.

Stewart-Jones, having just raced 20km on Sunday (Feb. 11), walked up to the media area with a handful of her photos after an impromptu autograph session.

“The kids here are really hyped. I'll sign as many as I have to,” she said with a laugh.

For Bouffard-Nesbitt, who lives and trains in Canmore, knowing so many young athletes from coaching, who were on the sidelines cheering for her, was “really special.”

“It’s one of my favourite parts about being at a home World Cup is connecting with the young girls,” said Bouffard-Nesbitt.

Many North American skiers reiterated that they were happy to be racing a World Cup on this continent. For at least five months of the year, Canadian and U.S. skiers are in Europe, living in and out of hotels, while they compete. It’s a taxing ritual for the athletes.

So it was a bit surprising for rising prospect and hometown boy McKeever to get recognized – even if it was from World Cup competitors, with his face on a poster around town promoting the event.

“I’ll say this, the first time Luke Jager from the States came out and saw me on one of the training days … the first thing he said to me was , ‘Xav, you’re everywhere,’” said McKeever. “I was so confused. He was like, “Your poster’, it took me a minute to remind myself that I’m on the posters everywhere, but I was super honoured to be a part of that … and I think it was super special and a privilege to be on that poster.”

Following disappointing results after three days of racing, McKeever finally broke a smile on the final day of the World Cup. Amid mounting pressure to perform, McKeever skied to 19th place in the classic sprint, a personal best for the 20-year-old Canuck.

After the first day of racing, and in 51st place, a blue McKeever said: “I obviously wish the home debut went a little bit better, but … I’m just going to try to put everything together for the next races coming up.”

He reset during Monday’s non-race day by watching cooking shows and, basically, just chilling and recovering.

On Tuesday, he set a personal best.

“If you put your mind to something and you believe you can do something, anything can happen,” said McKeever.

“At the end of the day, I’m still super stoked for today. And to have my World Cup PB at home, on a home course, and have one of those days, is super special.”

Another Canmore setting PBs was Sam Hendry.

The Canmore event was the only time Hendry was able to get World Cup starts this season following some tough results, but the 24-year-old made a statement on why he should be in the mix for more.

With a pair of top-30s in the distance races, including a personal best 21st in the 20km classic, Hendry was one of the Canadians to keep an eye on at his home course.

“These are the only World Cup starts I got for the year, so it’s really special to have this opportunity ... It’s really unbelievable,” he said.

Hendry, who has skied at the Canmore Nordic Centre since he was able to walk, called it “really special to be here” and race at the place he knows so well.

“Just warming up and knowing all the volunteers and all the fans, all the family friends and members of the community is really special and getting to hear my parents out there cheering every lap. That just does not happen on the World Cup very often and hardly ever,” said Hendry.

With all the big cheers and praise, every Canadian eagerly awaits the day that more World Cups in the Great White North are announced.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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