Sprint Québec – Vieux-Québec Holds a First in the Americas

Sprint Québec – Vieux-Québec Holds a First in the Americas

Main pic: At the Quebec City Sprint Cross-country Skiing World Cup 2012. Photo credit: Antoine Letarte 

Article by Catherine McKenna

Sprint-QuebecOn December 7-9, Québec City was host to an American première – a cross-country ski Sprint in the heart of an urban environment. With a backdrop of the St. Louis Gate, the fortifications, the Plains of Abraham, the statues on l’Assemblée nationale, and a festively decorated Fontaine de Tourny, we certainly had every reason to be proud our city had been chosen for such an extraordinary competition. Lauded post event as technically perfect, the artificial snow course was an 850-metre loop that included a jump and a 180-degree turn.

Most athletes arrived in town a week prior, and it seemed like everywhere I went, there they were! Running through the streets of the Vieux, working out at my health club, and heading to and from the course. Others trained at the Forêt Montmorency. All appeared as delighted to be here as we were to have them; I was often greeted with a smile as I passed them on foot, and an Ah, bicycling! with the charm of a Swedish accent when I met up with a group on my bike.

Qualifying trials and team competitions were held on Friday. The crowd was estimated at some 20,000 for these opening events, but Saturday was the big day with the finals, held from 1:15-2:53 p.m. Spectators came in droves – in apparently even higher numbers than in Stockholm, and rivaling only Oslo in 2010.

Two screens were set up at north and south points of the course, but depending on where one positioned oneself, these were not always visible, with the view somewhat obstructed due to the masses and the beautiful trees of the parliament grounds.

Promotional kiosks were set up along Grande-Allée  – ski equipment, local tipples, chocolate milk, and a family tent.

Access into and around the site was somewhat of a labyrinth. Arriving early was best in order to stake out the optimum vantage point. For some, this was up along the wall. I preferred the immediate rush of the skiers flying by less than a metre from me, so I found a good spot where skiers were coming around out of a turn.

The atmosphere of the event was remarkable, with families, dogs, and the traditional cowbells a clanging in the hands of cheering fans.

Sprint-Quebec-2The most visible support was American; flags were everywhere, both in the crowd and in the streets of the Vieux. But vocal support bordered on deafening for our own, in particular for local star Alex Harvey.

Unfortunately, Harvey was slowed by two falls in his path on Friday, and did not make it past the quarterfinals Saturday. But as in any sport, it is not always our day to win. It was ditto in terms of luck for Canada, as we finished out of the medals for both the individual and team races. Racing such a short distance is not everyone’s forte, either, and the mild weather conditions required formidable efforts on the part of competitors at the finish of the two-lap course.

On the podium, Kazakhstan took the gold in the men’s team final sprint, with Russia second and Norway third. For the individual final sprint, it was win-place Sweden, and Russia, show.

For the women, it was American Kikkan Randall in the spotlight, winning in both the team (paired with Jessica Diggins) and individual finals. Second in the former was Germany, followed by Norway; in the latter, Norway second, and Sweden third.

Sprint-Quebec-Amateur-DaySunday was amateur race day under sunny skies and mild weather. Competitors started in groups of four in this family event that did not draw crowds – perhaps understandable given our history of cross-country skiing does not date back to prehistoric times as it does in Fennoscandian countries. The sport is relatively new in North America by contrast.

However, though it may be a little-known claim to fame, Forestville, Quebec has been home to one of the longest cross-country ski races in the world, the Boréal Loppet, since 2005.

So come on Québec skiers! Get ready for 2016, when Gestev shows every indication they will back for another edition of The Sprint World Cup.

Categories: Arts & Culture, News, Sports

About Author

Catherine McKenna

Catherine McKenna is a Quebecker of Irish descent who returned to her native city in 2002 to live inside the walls after many years in Toronto and the United States. Following her studies in literature and languages at York University, she rode Thoroughbred racehorses for 22 years, worked for The Pollution Probe Foundation, Canadian Parks and Wilderness, as well as in the arts, among other diverse endeavours. Her book, Jeanie Johnston Journal, was published in 2005, and she continues to write for various publications in Québec, Montréal, and Toronto. She has worked as an ESL teacher for ten years and a translator for five. The Défilé de la St-Patrick is an organisation dear to her heart; she has been a member of the Board of Directors since the revival of the parade in 2010.

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