Retiring skier Alex Harvey wins silver medal in final cross-country race
Canadian Olympian clocks 29 minutes 8.2 seconds in 15 km pursuit at Quebec City
Retiring Canadian cross-country skier Alex Harvey went out in style, earning his second silver medal in as many days at a World Cup event in Quebec City on Sunday.
He finished second in the men's 15-kilometre pursuit in 29 minutes 8.2 seconds, less than three seconds behind Norway's Johannes Klaebo (29:05.4) who posted his 12th individual World Cup victory of the season. Russia's Alexander Bolshunov was third in 29:08.3.
On Saturday, the 30-year-old Harvey was second in the 15 km classic-ski mass start in 36:11.7.
"I wanted to give my best because I knew the podium was mine to lose," the man known as the "Prince of Quebec' by his teammates told Nordiq Canada. "To end my career with two podiums makes me feel even better about my decision.
"I always wanted to stop while being at the top and, even if it was a tough season for me, I think the last two weeks have been really good. The time is right."
WATCH | The final metres of Alex Harvey's last World Cup race:
A huge throng of fans, some holding signs saying "One More Year," flocked to a sunny but windy Plains of Abraham to watch the local favourite end his remarkable reign as Canada's top competitor in the sport.
The three-time Olympian, who announced his retirement plans in February, has won five world championship medals — including two gold — over his career and made 31 World Cup podium appearances.
Harvey was 10th in Friday's sprint and thrilled supporters with a second-place showing in the 15K classic-ski mass start Saturday, a result that left him in tears on the podium.
WATCH | Alex Harvey's retirement press conference:
The silver on Sunday was the 32nd career World Cup medal for Harvey, but only his third podium finish in a challenging season.
With two kilometres left in the race, Klaebo pulled away from Harvey on the final hill. The latter made his move while circling into the finishing stretch, outsprinting Bolshunov over the final 200 metres.
WATCH | The 15 km pursuit, Harvey's final race:
"In the last lap, I knew I would be on the podium so I wanted to remain strategic," Harvey said. "Klaebo had more legs than us on the last hill but I had a good sprint at the end, so I am happy."
Harvey gave credit to the crowd for elevating his performance.
"It made a huge difference, especially yesterday actually, but today as well," Harvey said Sunday. "Today I was starting with a big advantage over the other guys so I had a really good chance to make the podium. At the end of a season like that everybody's really tired.
"Everybody feels the season in their legs. So motivation is a huge thing."
Harvey, who finished fourth in the 50K at the Pyeongchang Games last year, said he hopes to be involved in developing the next generation of Canadian cross-country ski talent. He's also studying law at Laval University and will be getting married in June.
Toronto's Len Valjas was 38th. The 30-year-old with seven World Cup medals has also announced his retirement from competition.
"Today was special to retire with Alex," said Valjas of Harvey, with whom he joined to win a World Cup team sprint two years ago in Toblach, Italy. "The Canadian crowd was so supportive of me. I'm so glad I went one more year after the Olympics to finish here."
In the women's 10K pursuit, Sweden's Stina Nilsson stormed out to an early lead and never looked back, clocking 23:55.1. Norwegian Therese Johaug (24;08.0) was 12 seconds behind in second and compatriot Ingvild Oestberg was just behind in third (24:10.2)
Nilsson swept the three events in Quebec City.
"[It] was perfect," she said. "It couldn't have ended any better."
Two-time Olympian Emily Nishikawa of Whitehorse was 31st, climbing six spots with a time of 27:49.0.
"I had a really good race," she said. "I felt really strong, was skiing comfortably up near the front of our chase pack. It was definitely one of my best races of the season."
With files from The Canadian Press