Canadian Katherine Stewart-Jones earns career-best World Cup cross-country ski finish

LAHTI, FINLAND — Canadian Katherine Stewart-Jones had a career-best 24th place finish Saturday in a women's World Cup cross-country ski event.

Stewart-Jones, of Chelsea, Que., posted a time of 41 minutes 8.6 seconds in the women's 15-kilometre skiathon. Cedrine Browne, of Saint-Jerome, Que., was 27th - her best-ever skiathon finish - in 41:30.0, marking the first time since 2014 that two Canadian women registered a top-30 finish on the World Cup.

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And Russell Kennedy of Canmore, Alta., finished 29th in the men's 30-kilometre skiathon.

The skiathlon, which combines classic and skate skiing, was the first World Cup start in nearly 10 months for the Canadians. They trained at home for the first half of the World Cup season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was good to get the first race of the season done, and I’m also very happy to get a new personal best result," said Stewart-Jones after just her second career top-30 result. "I wanted to ski as relaxed as possible in the classic part and get myself in good position.

"My legs started to feel heavy in the skate, so I just held on to the skiers around me. The wax techs did an incredible job with the skis today. They were very fast."

Browne registered her fourth top-30 result despite getting tangled up in an early crash.

"There was a big fall in the first kilometre of the race that I couldn’t avoid and ended up nearly last," she said. "I had to be very strong mentally, be patient and trust myself for the rest of the race."

Norwegians Therese Johaug, Helene Marie Fosssesholm and Heidi Weng swept the top-three positions. Laura Leclair, of Chelsea, was 44th in her first-ever World Cup start in 44:26.8.

Kennedy, who shared guiding duties for Brian McKeever at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, was quite happy with his finish.

"That was a sweet first race to start the season off," he said. "It’s a hard way to get into the World Cup season but it was so nice to finally race again."

Emil Iverson led another Norwegian sweep of the medals. Sjur Roethe was second ahead of Paal Golberg.

Antoine Cyr, of Gatineau, Que., was 37th (1:14:08.5) while Philippe Boucher, of Levis, Que., was 47th (1:15:52.6). Remi Drolet, of Rossland, B.C., finished 49th (1:16:48.5).

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 23, 2021

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