Photo: Canadian Press

Podium performances on ice, snow

Canadians proved their summer training is paying off early as Canucks delivered medals on the ski trails, the Speed Skating oval and the Figure Skating arena.

In Heerenveen, Netherlands, Sunday, reigning Olympic champion Christine Nesbitt followed up her individual gold medal in the 1,500 metres on Saturday with a bronze in team pursuit with Ivanie Blondin and Brittany Schussler. Skating in the final pair with Russia, the Canadian women finished the race in a time of three minutes and 2.337 seconds – only 0.006 seconds from second place. Germany won the gold medal in 3:01.14 and the Netherlands earned the silver (3:02.331).

“We had a rough day in the team pursuit,” said Nesbitt after the race. “We’re obviously happy we can have a rough day and walk away with a bronze medal. It was nice to get a new skater out there (Blondin) and get her a World Cup medal. It was a tight race. We were tied for second, (and) then placed in third by thousandths of seconds – it was a mini heartbreaker at the end. I think for next time we need to practice skating a little more as a team.”

The second ISU World Cup is in Kolomna, Russia, on Nov. 24 and 25 and will feature the middle and long distances races.

Crawford proves ‘fearless’ early on
2006 Olympic champion Chandra Crawford celebrated an early birthday in style by winning a silver medal in her final World Cup cross-country ski tune-up race on Sunday. Competing in Bruksvallarna, Sweden on the eve of her 29th birthday, the two-time Olympian from Canmore, Alta. won her quarter-final heat, and secured her spot in the final after finishing second in the semifinals.

“My theme this year is to be fast, female and fearless,” said Crawford, who leveraged her Olympic victory to launch a Fast and Female program that encourages young girls to get involved in sport. “The women’s program took a lot of risks in training this summer and I feel like that paid off today. I just attacked and it was exciting out there.”

Swedish cross-country skier Ida Ingemarsdotter capture gold, while Slovenia’s Katja Visnar, who led for the first half of the final heat, held on for the bronze medal.

The World Cup season officially gets underway in Gaellivare, Sweden, November 24-25, 2012.

The top cross-country skiers in the world will return to Canada for back-to-back World Cups beginning in Quebec City, December 7-8 before traveling to the CanmoreNordic Centre for three more races, December 13-16.

Babikov wins bronze in first European start
Two-time Olympian Ivan Babikov captured bronze in the final cross-country ski race on Saturday in Sweden before the start of the World Cup. The 32-year-old Babikov finished in a time of 31:50.0 in the 15-kilometre skate-ski race.

“That was a great start for sure,” said a confident Babikov, who was in eighth spot mid-way through the race. “I started out pretty slow on the first loop, but then went out on the second lap and got into a good tempo. I made up some time on the final loop and was really happy to finish third.”

Gold was captured by Sweden’s Johan Olsson who posted the time of the day at 31:17.3, and Daniel Richardsson, who skied to the silver with a time of 31:28.4.

Duhamel and Radford pair for silver
The Canadian skating pair of Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford recovered from a shaky short program to capture silver at the Trophee Eric Bombard in Paris, France on Saturday with a score of 186.71 points.

The silver was the second for Duhamel, from Lively, ON, and Radford, from Balmertown, ON, after the duo finished second at the Skate Canada International in Windsor last month. The two podium finishes earns them a spot in the Grand Prix Final next month in Sochi, Russia.