Alex Harvey, Devon Kershaw look to salvage disappointing Olympics
Faltering cross-country team heads to sprint event
It's down to the team sprint for Canada to make a statement in cross-country skiing after a Sochi Olympics to forget through 12 days.
Alex Harvey of St.-Ferreol, Que., and Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, Ont., will compete for Canada on Wednesday in the men's competition, with Daria Gaiazova of Banff, Alta., and Perianne Jones of Almonte, Ont., comprising the women's team.
At the official announcement of the 11-member cross-country team in January, cross-country team coach Justin Wadsworth said he’d be disappointed if Canada didn’t win two medals in Russia, and that the total could be as high as four.
It hasn't quite worked out that way, and Wadsworth would surely love Canada to come away with more than the "Fair Play Award" he received from the IOC for running to lend a Russian competitor a ski.
Harvey, the top men's skier on the team with four World Cup podium results this season, has just one top 20 finish to show for Sochi.
He failed to advance to the semifinals in the sprint, a favoured event, and pulled out of the 15-kilometre classic. Harvey later said the wax and skis weren't ideally matched on a balmy day for an Olympic cross-country race.
The pair were then left out of the 4 x 10 kilometre team relay so that they could preserve all the energy for the sprint, with Kershaw reportedly one of the team members feeling under the weather.
Harvey and Kershaw have shocked the world before, beating the Norwegians on their own snow for gold in the team sprint at the 2011 world championships.
They finished off the podium at the worlds two years later, losing a tiebreaker to Kazakhstan for third place.
Women's team looks to recapture magic
If Canada's men's skiers have struggled, the women's haven't registered in the standings.
The hope is that the Russian-born Gaiazova and Jones can recapture the magic that saw them win bronze in team sprint almost exactly one year ago in Sochi.
Meanwhile, the U.S. women's team are in a position not dissimilar to that of the Canadian men.
Hopes were high for the first Olympic medal in the sport for an American since 1976, given the exploits of Kikkan Randall on the World Cup circuit in the past couple of seasons.
The Anchorage, Alaska native hasn't been able to break through individually in Sochi, but she won the sprint at the 2013 world with teammate Jessica Diggins.
In the sprint, the two skiers take turns completing 1.5-kilometre legs three times each, for a total of six legs. There is a semifinal round to determine the 10 finalists.
Norway and Sweden have accounted for 16 of 24 medals so far and there's no reason to expect they won't be contenders.
Russia has been a threat to win in recent team sprints on the men's side, with Finland a factor in women's competition.