George Grey Among Three Canadians to Qualify for Sprint Finals at Tour de Ski

December 31st, 2008

PRAGUE, CZE.—A trio of Canadians were ready to pounce onto the podium for the second straight day, but ran into some tough luck in the finals of a skate-sprint race and third stage of the Tour de Ski in Prague, Czech Republic on Monday.

Feeding off the adrenalin of his first podium performance of the year yesterday in Germany, Devon Kershaw posted the top men’s qualifying time on the relatively flat 1.2-kilometre course winding through the streets of one of the most famous exhibition grounds in Central Europe. Kershaw carried his top speed into the heats, and was poised to move onto the second round, but crashed in a corner while attempting to make a move on a Swedish skier and was last to cross the finish line in his heat. Kershaw now sits in 11th spot overall.

While Kershaw led the world’s best skiers into the head-to-head heats, which have six athletes racing at one time, it was George Grey who finished as the top Canadian in 19th spot. The 29-year-old Grey, of Rossland, B.C., who is known for his talents as a distance skier, has been posting a series of impressive times in short-distance races this year. Qualifying for the heats in 25th spot, Grey fell just short of advancing to the semifinals and was forced to the sidelines after the opening round.

Ivan Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., who is another distance specialist, was the only other Canadian in the men’s race and did not qualify for the heats after finishing 57th.

Norway’s Tor Arne Hetland won the third stage of the seven-race Tour de Ski which is being held in four countries throughout Europe over nine days. Russia’s Vassili Rotchev finished second, while Jean Marc Gaillard, of France, was third.

Canada’s Sara Renner also had another steady day in the women’s skate-ski sprint race. Renner now sits in 14th spot in the overall Tour standings after finishing 23rd on Monday. The Canmore, Alta. native had strong legs and energy to make her mark on the field, but had a disappointing opening heat and did not advance.

“I am kind of disappointed because I made so many attempts to get by people but couldn’t get anywhere,” said Renner, who now sits in 14th spot overall. “I had the legs to fight today. I am looking forward to the day off and get some rest.”

Italy’s Arianna Follis bolted her way up to the top of the overall standings after sprinting to golden position on the podium in Prague. Finland’s Aino-Kaisa Saarinen settled for second spot, while Slovenia’s Petra Majdic was third.

Athletes will get their first break in the nine-day affair on Tuesday. The fourth stage of the Tour de Ski takes place on Wednesday, December 31 with a distance race in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.


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