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King Kong Kershaw Claims Collosal Sprint GOLD in Poland and Makes History

by Graham Longford

Devon Kershaw (CAN) © Nordic Focus
February 17, 2012 (Szklarska Poreba, Poland) – Canada’s Devon Kershaw wowed World Cup fans today, capturing the gold medal in the men’s freestyle 1.6km sprint in Szklarska Poreba, Poland, in a stunning come-from-behind victory. The Sudbury native etched his name in Canadian history books yet again claiming the nation’s first sprint gold medal ever.

In today’s final Kershaw surprised Russia’s Nikolay Morilov at the line with a powerful move in the closing metres of the race to seal the victory and make it three out of four podiums in as many races – two of them gold.

Kershaw, 29, now a wily veteran of the World Cup circuit, put on a sprint tactics clinic today, winning each of his heats through a combination of patience, agility, and perfectly timed attacks. In every heat, including the final, Kershaw skied patiently at the back until darting through traffic near the end to take the win.

In the final it looked like the Canuck was headed for a silver medal until Morilov, who was leading in the final metres, pulled up slightly to celebrate what he thought was a victory. Unaware of Kershaw’s finishing rocket pace, Morilov was already pumping his fist in victory when Kershaw stole the gold medal with a superb lunge at the line. Instantly aware of his mistake, a visibly angry Morilov ripped his glasses off and threw them to the ground in frustration. Norway’s Ola Vigen Hattestad took third.

Final podium (l-r): Morilov 2nd, Kershaw 1st, Hattestad 3rd. © Nordic Focus
“I was feeling very strong in the finishing stretch,” Kershaw said in a FIS XC post-race interview, “the final straight is a little bit uphill and that suits me well. I was not thinking much and I was just trying to the finish as fast as I could. It has been amazing in Poland. I was here 11 years ago at the Junior World Championships. The course is beautiful and the fans are great.”

With today’s win Kershaw solidifies his grip on third place in the World Cup overall standings with 1,053 points, stretching his lead to 157 points over fourth place Marcus Hellner of Sweden, who failed to qualify today. With 2nd-placed Petter Northug (NOR) sitting out this weekend’s World Cup to prepare for the Vasaloppet, Kershaw has moved to within 146 points of the  Norwegian star who has 1,199 points. “I will try my best to catch Petter Northug in the overall ranking,” added Kershaw.

Among the other North Americans racing today, Canada’s Alex Harvey qualified 19th but did not make it beyond the quarters. Harvey crashed on the final turn before the stadium as he attempted to set himself up for the final sprint and finished 6th in his quarterfinal heat to end the day in 27th.

Devon Kershaw (CAN) wins Canada's first WCup sprint gold. © Nordic Focus
US sprinters, Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton, also qualified but neither made it beyond the quarters, with Newell experiencing bad luck when he became entangled with Eligius Tambornino of Switzerland on the final downhill turn before the stadium. While Newell stayed on his feet, the contact left him with too much ground to make up on the leaders and he finished the heat in 5th ending up 22nd on the day. Hamilton raced in Kershaw’s heat and held his own until the final sections when the pace heated up and he finished 29th.

Four other North American men raced today but failed to make it to the heats including Canada’s Phil Widmer (35th) and Len Valjas (43rd), and the USA’s Tad Elliott (53rd) and Sylvan Ellefson (57th).

This weekend’s World Cup event in Szklarska Poreba continues with a 15km classic distance race on Saturday. Fans will remember that Kershaw won his first distance gold recently in the 15km CL in Nove Mesto, CZE.

Men’s qualification results HERE.
Men’s final results HERE.





1 Comments For This Post

  1. Davor Danevski, Bozeman, Montana says:

    Pretty sure Morilov would have won had he not slowed down and celebrated. While Kershaw was gaining, no way does he wins if Morilov keeps it going. It would have been a clear win for the Russian. Obviously Kershaw won fair and square, but just stating the facts. If anyone watched the race (and really all the sprints this season), they would have noticed Morilov’s finishing kick in these sprints. In fact, what Kershaw did in the final, Morilov did in his quarterfinal and semifinal. Kershaw is in the form of his life and it’s great to see good things happen to good people. He deserves it.

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