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Harvey, Kershaw share podium at WC cross-country

The Canadian Press

3/16/2012 5:22:01 PM

FALUN, Sweden -- Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw made Canadian cross-country ski history Friday.

Harvey won the men's classic prologue in the second stage of the cross-country World Cup finals with teammate Kershaw finishing third. It marked the first time ever two Canadians shared the podium in a World Cup cross-country ski event.

"I have had some great races this year, but also some real challenging ones too," said Harvey. "I always believed in myself and believed I could win."

Harvey, a native of St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., finished the 3.3-kilometre men's race in eight minutes 16.8 seconds for his first World Cup victory. He had captured silver and bronze medals earlier this season.

Harvey accomplished the career milestone win with his father, Pierre, looking on. In 1987, Pierre Harvey made Canadian nordic history by earning Canada's first-ever World Cup win in Falun.

"It is such a special day for me to get my first individual victory on the same course where my dad's first win was in 1987," said the younger Harvey. "When I found out I won, I was so pumped.

"I ran over and hugged my dad and Devon who was also right there. The wax techs were all there and the whole team was so excited. It is so special."

The elder Harvey couldn't have agreed more.

"To see my son winning today is like a dream," Pierre Harvey said. "For sure, it's the best day to watch a ski race.

"I watch it usually on TV or on the Internet but to be here on the same spot that I was skiing so long ago, it's like unbelievable."

Switzerland's Dario Cologna, already the overall World Cup winner, was second, 0.2 seconds behind. Kershaw, a 29-year-old skier from Sudbury, Ont., claimed the bronze, just 3.1 seconds behind Harvey. It was Kershaw's fifth podium finish of the season, including two victories.

Kershaw's third-place finish also cemented second in the overall World Cup standings behind Cologna. Harvey is sixth.

"To be second in the overall is crazy awesome and very hard for me to process right now with two races still to go," said Kershaw. "I'm not sure how many skiers -- cross-country or alpine -- have ever been second overall in history.

"It was a goal of mine all year to finish in the top-three. I wanted to be top-three in the Tour de Ski and finishing fourth still stings, but that motivated me so much for the rest of the year for the overall on the World Cup. I won't believe it until I see it officially in writing -- but to finish second -- this is big time."

And Kershaw said there's no doubt in his mind that a Canadian will one day capture the overall crown.

"Today, with Alex winning and me third a Canadian will win the overall World Cup globe," he said. "It will happen at some point.

"For sure, I got beat by one of the greatest skiers in history of our sport. But, for sure, now more than ever before I believe a Canadian can win that elusive World Cup globe."

Beckie Scott was the only other Canadian cross-country skier to finish in the top-three in the overall World Cup standings when she also finished second in 2006.

Toronto's Len Valjas finished 21st in 8:34.0 to move into third overall at the midway point of the World Cup finals. Calgary's Kevin Sandau was 45th in 8:55.8.

Norway's Eirik Brandsal leads the event, 3.4 seconds ahead of Harvey. Kershaw is 11th, 23.2 seconds behind.

The 15-kilometre classic mass start event is scheduled for Saturday.

The Canadian team has captured 12 World Cup medals this season, surpassing its goal of 10 set at the beginning of the season.

Three-time Olympic champion Marit Bjoergen of Norway won the women's 2.5-kilometre classic prologue for her second consecutive win in the event.

Bjoergen, winner of the opening Royal Palace Sprint in central Stockholm two days ago, climbed the infamous "Mordarbacken" (Murder Hill) to finish in 6:54.4.

Sweden's Charlotte Kalla was second, 6.2 seconds behind. Norwegian Marthe Kristoffersen was third, 11.4 behind Bjoergen.

Daria Gaiazova of Banff, Alta., was the top Canadian, finishing 27th 7:27.5. Chandra Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., was 45th in 7:43.1 while Alysson Marshall, of Salmon Arm, B.C., finished 49th in 8:07.2.

Bjoergen leads second-place Kalla in the event by 21.5 seconds. The Norwegian also extended her overall World Cup lead to 170 points over Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk, the only other skier still in contention her for the title.

Kowalczyk, overall winner for the last three seasons, lies in fourth place, 46.5 seconds behind Bjoergen.

"I had a very good feeling from the start," said Bjoergen. "I went fast up Mordarbacken and then I knew I could take some seconds also in the downhill section.

"After two stages I am where I wanted to be. I have many seconds on Justyna Kowalczyk, it can be that Charlotte and I will be competing for the World Cup Final victory. But it's classic tomorrow and it will be important to have good skis."