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Canadian Nationals: Somppi, Browne Take 50/30 k Titles


Michael Somppi (AWCA-NST) celebrates his 50 k freestyle win at the 2015 Canadian Ski Nationals on Saturday at Lappe Nordic Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario. (Photo: CCC/Facebook)

Michael Somppi (AWCA-NST) celebrates his 50 k freestyle win at the 2015 Canadian Ski Nationals on Saturday at Lappe Nordic Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario. (Photo: CCC/Facebook)

Saturday marked the final day of racing at the 2015 Canadian Ski Nationals in Thunder Bay, Ontario. With temperatures dropping into the minus teens, under blue skies and strong winds, local favorite Michael Somppi of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and Canadian National Development Team, originally from Lappe Nordic, racked up his third gold medal in the men’s 50-kilometer freestyle mass start.

Somppi beat veteran and 2014 champion Ivan Babikov of the Canadian World Cup Team by 28.2 seconds in 2:05:18.8. Kevin Sandau (AWCA/NST-Dev.) came in third (+47.2).

“I felt great skiing today,” Somppi wrote in an email. “It was a hard race but I was surprised I was able to win without going to my absolute limit. It was just an amazing feeling coming into the finish with the home crowd cheering me on. Maybe that’s what helped me feel so good today and really, this whole week.”

By the 20 k mark, the peloton narrowed down to a small group. Babikov then launched an attack with around 15 k to go. “I knew Ivan would make a strong decisive attack somewhere towards the latter stages of the race and my plan was to do my best to follow,” Somppi explained.

“He made his attack around 37 k into the race, I pushed hard with Graeme Killick to follow. We were both able to stay with him initially, but Graeme started to fade so I went by him and skied right up behind Ivan,” he continued. “The rest of the way, it was down to the two of us, exchanging the lead. When we neared the final kms, it was apparent Ivan’s legs were cramping up and as we crested over the second last big climb, I noticed I had a small gap on him. So I just blasted with everything I had left and opened up a good margin to the finish line.”

After traveling and competing on the World Cup circuit for the past weeks, Babikov explained he was not able to fully recover for Saturday’s long-distance race.

Cendrine Browne (CNEPH/NST-U23) edging out Emily Nishikawa (AWCA/NST-Dev.) in the women's 30 k freestyle mass start. (Photo: CCC/Facebook)

Cendrine Browne (CNEPH/NST-U23) edging out Emily Nishikawa (AWCA/NST-Dev.) in the women’s 30 k freestyle mass start. (Photo: CCC/Facebook)

“Race plan was to save as much energy as possible and push the pace hard on the last two laps, which I did but my legs were feeling very tired from the beginning,” Babikov wrote in an email. “On the last 2 k, my legs just gave up on me, started cramping very badly so I even had to double pole some sections. I feel like travel and all 180 k of racing that I’ve done in the past four weeks finally caught up to me.”

On the women’s side, Cendrine Browne of the Pierre-Harvey National Training Centre (CNEPH) and national U23 team took gold in the 30 k mass start with a time of 1:23:02.4, edging out Emily Nishikawa (AWCA/NST-Dev.) by inches (+0.37). Dahria Beatty (AWCA/NST-U23) finished third, 6.1 seconds after Browne.

The three women and Andrea Dupont of Rocky Mountain Racers (RMR) quickly distanced themselves from the pack. On the final lap, Browne and Nishikawa sprinted for first in a photo finish.

Browne was the bronze medalist in Tuesday’s 10 k classic race.

  • 30/50 k freestyle mass start: Results

– François Léger Dionne

Canadian Nationals in Thunder Bay: Day 2-4 Recap (Updated)

  (Note: This post has been updated to include comments from Michael Somppi.) On Sunday, the second day of racing at 2015 Canadian Ski Nationals in Thunder Bay, Ontario, local favorite Michael Somppi of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and Canadian National Development Team, originally from Lappe Nordic, racked up his second-straight gold in the men’s 10-kilometer freestyle interval start on his home trails. He beat his Lappe Nordic team-sprint teammate Andy Shields by 34.3 seconds to do so with a winning time of 23:09.4. “The 10km skate was my best performance of the year,” Somppi wrote in an email. “I wanted the win and I started the race like it was a sprint qualifier. The conditions were fast and I did my best to keep my speed high on the faster sections of the course.” While Shields, of NDC Thunder Bay, posted the fifth-ranked time at 5 k,…

Lappe Nordic, RMR Claim Team Sprint Titles at Canadian Nationals

The Lappe Nordic team of Andy Shields and Michael Somppi won the team sprint at the 2015 Canadian Ski Nationals in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The pair won Saturday’s race with a time of 14:04.59. They were followed by the Foothills Nordic team of Jess Cockney and Kevin Sandau, who trailed by 2.53 seconds. In third were Colin Abbott and Knute Johnsgaard of Whitehorse. They crossed the line 5.85 seconds behind the winning time. “Somppi and I had a really good day,” Shields wrote in an email. “Our strategy was to have me push hard on the second and third legs to get a comfortable gap so Somppi could cruise into the finish … It’s absolutely thrilling to win for the home crowd here in Thunder Bay. A great start to the competitions for the fans. I’m glad my form came together for today’s race and it should bode well for…

Canada Winter Games: Relay Golds for Ontario and Quebec

Ontario was victorious in Saturday’s men 4 x 5-kilometer relay while Quebec earned gold on the women’s side on the fourth-and-final day of cross-country skiing at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George, British Columbia. At the Otway Nordic Centre, Benjamin Wilkinson-Zan, Scott Hill, Jack Carlyle, and Evan Palmer-Charrette put together a winning time of 48:14.9 for Ontario, ahead of the men in blue representing Quebec (Dominique Moncion-Groulx, Julien Lamoureux, Philippe Boucher, and Raphaël Couturier), which placed second (+43.4). British Columbia’s Julien Locke, Colin Ferrie, David Palmer, and Geoffrey Richards took third (+1:35.1). In the women’s 4 x 3.75 k relay, Katherine Stewart-Jones, Andrée-Anne Théberge, Anne-Marie Comeau, and Marie Corriveau notched a win for Quebec in 41:25.4. They edged British Columbia’s silver medalists Katie Weaver, Molly Miller, Hannah Mehain, and Eliza-Jane Kitchen by 32.6 seconds, and the Yukon team (Kendra Murray, Hannah Deuling, Natalie Hynes, and Annah Hanthorn) finished 44.2 seconds behind the winners in third. Relay results: Men’s 4 x 5 k / Women’s 4 x 3.75 k  – François Léger Dionne

Canada Winter Games: Two Gold and a Silver for Quebec in Skate Mass Start

Raphaël Couturier, of St-Jean-Chrysostome, Quebec, and Anne-Marie Comeau, of Abitibi, Quebec, notched victories in Thursday’s men’s and women’s 15- and 10-kilometer freestyle mass starts, respectively, on the third day of cross-country skiing at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George, British Columbia. At the Otway Nordic Centre, Couturier crossed the finish line in 35:13.6, with a 7.7 seconds lead over Evan Palmer-Charrette, of  Thunder Bay, Ontario, in second, and David Palmer, of Rossland, B.C., in third (+ 12.2). This was Couturier’s second medal after a bronze in Monday’s 10 k classic interval start. On the women’s side, Comeau stopped the clock at 26:36.1, collecting her first medal at these Games. After losing Monday’s 7.5 k classic interval start by less than a second, Katherine Stewart-Jones, of Chelsea, Quebec, edged Maya MacIsaac-Jones, of Athabasca, Alberta, by one tenth of a second, for second place (+21.2). Stewart-Jones collected her third silver medal at these Games. Annah Hanthorn,…

Canada Winter Games: Ferrie, Jackson Win Classic Sprints

Colin Ferrie, of Kimberley, British Columbia, and Jenn Jackson, of Mihurst, Ontario, both came out on top in Tuesday’s classic sprints, on the second day of cross-country skiing at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George, British Columbia. At the Otway Nordic Centre, Ferrie took the gold on the 1.5-kilometer course in 3:29.57, edging Scott Hill, of Toronto, Ontario, in second (+0.13) and Simon Lapointe, of Gatineau, Quebec in third (+0.76). With her winning time of 3:50.97, Jackson, also the fastest in qualification, topped Katherine Stewart-Jones, of Chelsea, Quebec, by 1.90 second, and Marie Corriveau, of Quebec, Quebec, in third (+2.66), in the women’s 1.4 k classic sprint. Results: Men’s 1.5 k sprint | Women’s 1.4 k sprint – François Léger Dionne

Canada Winter Games: Day 4 Biathlon & Day 1 Cross-Country Recaps

On Friday, Feb. 20, the biathlon races at Canada Winter Games in Prince George, British Columbia, ended with the traditional relays at the Otway Nordic Centre. On in men’s 3 x 7.5-kilometer relay, the province of Quebec took gold, ahead of Alberta and Ontario. Félix Bérubé-Larochelle, of Lac-Mégantic, Zachari Bolduc, of Laval, and Teo Sanchez, of Wakefield, combined for the win in 1:04:25. Fifty-five seconds behind were Alberta skiers Jakob Chambers, Adam Runnalls and Ben Churchill, of Calgary. Ontario’s third-place finishers Jason Richard Lawton, of Orleans, Toby Quinn, of Thunder Bay, and Alexandre Dupuis, of Ottawa, finished 2:07 back from the winners. In the women’s 3 x 6 k relay, British Columbia was victorious over Quebec and Alberta. Tekarra Elissa Banser, of West Kelowna, Claire Agnes Lapointe, of Pince George, and Emily Maria Dickson, of Burns Lake, triumphed on home soil with a time of 1:00:06. Quebec’s Charlotte Hamel, of Sherbrooke, and sisters Sarah Poisson-Grégoire and…

Day 2-3 Biathlon Recaps from Canada Winter Games (with Photo Gallery)

Matthew Hudec, of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, and Leilani Tam Von Burg, of Ottawa, Ontario, notched victories on Tuesday in the men’s and women’s 10- and 7.5-kilometer biathlon sprints, respectively, on the second day of biathlon at the Canada Winter Games  in Prince George, British Columbia. For Tam Von Burg, it was her second win in as many races so far at the 2015 Games. The next day, Alexandre Dupuis, of Ottawa, and Emily Maria Dickson, of Burns Lake, B.C., started second and rose to first in the men’s 12.5 k and women’s 10 k pursuits. At the Otway Nordic Centre on Tuesday, Hudec topped Dupuis by 24.5 seconds and Jules Bernotte, of Sherbrook, Quebec, in third (+34.8) for the men’s sprint win in 26:18.8. The next day, Dupuis won the men’s pursuit by 18.9 seconds over Hudec in 35:45.4. Just 0.9 seconds back from Hudec, Teo Sanchez, of Wakefield, Quebec, placed third. Tam Von Burg collected a 55-second victory…

Sandau, Nishikawa Top Both Distance Races at Eastern Canadian Champs (with Photos) 

Note: This recap has been updated to include the correct time back and note Jenn Jackson’s crash in the women’s A-final. Kevin Sandau and Emily Nishikawa racked up two more wins apiece this season at the NorAm Eastern Canadian Championships this past weekend in Gatineau, Quebec. Sandau and Nishikawa, both Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and Canadian National Development Team (NST-Dev.) skiers, swept the men’s and women’s distance races, respectively, on Saturday and Sunday at Nakkertok Nordic. On Friday, Jan. 30, Michael Somppi (AWCA/NST-Dev.) won the men’s 1.5-kilometer freestyle sprint and Heidi Widmer (AWCA/NST-Dev.) topped the women’s 1.4 k sprint in soft, deep snow after about 10 centimeters (4 inches) fell the night before. Somppi went on to place second in Saturday’s 15 k freestyle and third in the 10 k classic mass start. He qualified for the sprint in sixth, 2.59 seconds behind the top men’s qualifier Sébastien Boehmler-Dandurand of the Pierre-Harvey…

UPDATED: Bender, Blackhorse-von Jess Win SuperTour Sprints in Craftsbury

Note: This post was updated with athlete quotes.  Bridger Ski Foundation’s Jennie Bender came out on top in Sunday’s 1.25-kilometer classic sprint in Craftsbury, Vt. After qualifying in the top position earlier in the day, Bender won the first SuperTour sprint since the 2015 U.S. Cross Country Championships with a final time of 3:26.26. Bender took control of the final from the start of the gun to easily cross the finish line in first. Bender,   a Vermont native, wrote she was happy with her performance in the race given her feelings surrounding the 20 k earlier this weekend. “I wasn’t sure how I would feel out there today, since Friday’s 20k for me played out like a flight leaving Houghton; it just didn’t happen. But a little Hometown sprint racing was fun, and I’m looking forward to next weekend,” Bender wrote in an email.  She was followed by Liz Guiney…