Record breaking snowfall earlier in the week, blue skies, sunshine and thousands of crazy ski fans graced the Plains of Abraham were perfect conditions for Harvey to “be on a cloud” as his legendary father Pierre declared post-race. The Plains of Abraham may be renamed the Plains of Alex one day.
“Go Alex” slogans were everywhere; even the cowbells had the phrase written on the side. Yet Harvey seemed to thrive with the pressure, acknowledging the crowd graciously with each appearance as he moved through the qualifications, with the fourth fastest time.
“It’s important to go through to the first place in the heats,” said Harvey, who just couldn’t stop smiling after such an incredible race. “You want to create a fast pace. I was feeling good.” But, he added, “It takes a lot of things to win – great equipment, really good body, it all worked today.”
Harvey and Hamilton led an incredible North American contingent as Canada’s Jesse Cockney skied to 10th overall with a brilliant and patient ski in the quarter-finals, waiting for others to wear themselves out at the front before making his move in the finishing straightaway. The competition was just that much stronger in the semi, but with a second top-12 WC sprint placing this season, Cockney is in the running for the 2018 Olympic team.
“I am definitely bummed about how the day ended for me, but as the dust settled it’s been good to remind myself that 4th is a great result and I worked as hard as I could to achieve it,” said Hamilton. “Being just shy of the podium is a tough pill to swallow, but the hardest part for me is knowing that I did not ski the final 100 meters anywhere close to how I know I could have skied them, and I feel like I mentally unraveled in the final seconds to give away 3rd place. I know I can improve how I finish, and I’m really motivated to work towards that goal this training season.”
Len Valjas finished 19th, while new Canadian team members Julien Locke and Bob Thompson followed in 20th and 30th respectively. Five Canadians qualifying for the sprint world cup heats speaks to the success of the men’s program. Americans Andrew Newell, Erik Bjornsen and Cole Morgan were 31st, 33rd and 34th, just missing the cut.
Harvey’s memory of last year’s Quebec City sprint also helped. “Last year I saw Finn (Haagen Krogh) out of the corner of my eye go by me,” Harvey added, saying it happened in the last part of the straightaway before the finish. “I was making sure the race wasn’t going to slip through my fingers again.”
Pierre also cautioned people not to necessarily believe that his son’s smiling, generous presence shows how nonchalant he is. “He’s nervous; he just doesn’t show it. You need to have some pressure to really go fast.” But the senior Harvey also talked about what it felt like to watch his son win at home. “I saw him once in Sweden win, but that was it. To win here, it’s one of the greatest feelings you can have. We say we are ‘on a cloud’. I don’t think it translates to English properly. Usually you finish the season and you’re sick. Today was the opposite of that. When you’re in front, your head almost starts spinning because you say, ‘Holy smokes, I may win it!’ Then the race isn’t so hard anymore,” commented Pierre.
Jesse Cockney, like Harvey had a perpetual smile after the race, and like Harvey used smart tactics, particularly in the quarter-finals where the field had a significant headwind coming out of the start – a wind that picked up later in the afternoon. “You can see how wide open the start is, but the finish has a tailwind.” Cockney stayed in behind the leaders as his heat commenced but didn’t lose contact. As he came around the last turn to the finish, Cockney sailed into position, picking off skiers one by one to take second in his quarter final. “This is really big for me,” he noted. “I’m still not a qualifier specialist – still not there to attain it internationally, but I’m doing it domestically.” But it’s that domestic scene he says is helping him so much. “We have five guys training together. To have that kind of commitment in the summer is great.”
It appeared the French team was celebrating nearly as much as the Canadians with Richard Jouve, who qualified with the 10th fastest time, and then took his first podium finish of his career with the bronze medal. After the race he said he loved everything there was about Quebec, the snow, the course, the city and the people.
“It has been a very good season. Winning the World Cup is completely unreal. It’s a big dream come true. I did not realize this before the season,” said Klaebo.