CANMORE – The quickest Canadians on the first day of the Canmore World Cup were local athletes Sam Hendry and Anna Parent, who used their expert knowledge of the Canmore Nordic Centre trails to their advantage over the rest of the field.
In the 15km mass start freestyle on Friday (Feb. 9), Hendry crossed the finish line with a personal best 30th place in the men’s race. Parent, making her World Cup debut, was 41st in the women’s.
Winning gold was USA’s Jessie Diggins in the women’s race and Norway’s Simen Hegstad Krueger in the men’s.
Hendry, 24, said he was continuously able to “make moves and stay out of trouble” as he climbed into the top-30 on the hometown course.
“I’ve been struggling this season, for sure, and having some tough performances,” said Hendry. “These are the only World Cup starts I got for the year, so it’s really special to have this opportunity and to be the top Canadian and 30th place is crazy. It’s really unbelievable.”
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.
The hometown love was felt by Parent as well.
“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 was all smiles after her World Cup debut. She thinks the home course advantage paid off.
“I knew it wasn’t my specialty [race] … but I was like I’m going out, it’s good for my first one, I’m going to see how hard I can go and push myself out there,” she said. “So now, I’m looking forward to the next three races. Typically, they’re better races for me, especially the Sunday race, the classic 20km.”
Xavier McKeever, 20, another Canmore-raised skier soaking in the moment, finished 51st. However, it wasn't the result the young Canuck wanted.
“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,” said McKeever.
“I think [the Canadians] struggled a little bit with the skis all-round, unfortunately. You have days like that where everything doesn’t go to plan, but I think it’s also good. I think our team will learn a lot from today and we’ll be able to get some fixes in place for the next race and I think we’ll have some good ones coming up.”
Diggins, Krueger win gold
U.S. ski star Diggins out-sprinted the field to win at a time of 40:26.0. France's Delphine Claudel (40:28.6), and Norway's Heidi Weng (40:29.3) rounded out the podium.
Canadian Olympians Katherine Stewart-Jones and Olivia Nesbitt-Bouffard did not start in Friday’s race.
On the men’s side, Krueger cruised to victory at a time of 36:06.5. Norway’s Harald Oestberg Amundsen (36:16.3), and Austria’s Mika Vermeulen (36:16.8) finished with silver and bronze, respectively.
Canadian Olympian Antoine Cyr finished 37th (38:01.9).
Full results can be found here.
The Canmore World Cup resumes Saturday (Feb. 10), with the sprint freestyle. Qualifications start at 10:30 a.m. The finals are at 1 p.m.
CBC Sports is broadcasting the races.