Canada's Alex Harvey struggles in sprint classic, fails to advance into quarters

The Canadian Press

PYEONGCHANG, Korea, Republic Of — Alex Harvey finished a surprising 32nd place on Tuesday and failed to make it past qualifying in the men's cross-country sprint classic at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Harvey completed the 1.4 kilometre course in three minute 17.95 seconds — 9.41 seconds back of the first place time from Finland's Ristomatti Hakola. Only the top 30 advance into the quarterfinals.

It's Harvey's worst result this season in the sprint classic. The last time he didn't qualify for the elimination rounds in the discipline was at the World Cup in Ruka, Finland where he was 47th on Nov. 27, 2015.

Visibly shaken by his result, Harvey didn't speak with media afterwards.

"It wasn't his day today," coach Louis Bouchard said. "It's a counter-performance which happens sometimes."

Toronto's Lenny Valjas was the top Canadian in the sprint, finishing seventh after being eliminated in the semifinals. Jesse Cockney of Yellowknife and Russell Kennedy of Canmore, Alta., were ousted in the qualifications.

"Even on the hill, I wasn't the fastest to the top by any means. I was gap, but I just made sure to push over the top and I just let the skis roll," Valjas said. "The more speed you bring into the finish you just carry it, so it's not that I'm a faster finisher than those guys, I just brought more into the finishing straight, into the headwind and you just hold that higher speed throughout."

Bouchard indicated that the 29-year-old Harvey seemed to still be affected by the 30 km skiathlon where he finished eighth last Saturday.

"It appeared as though he didn't have a lot of energy and so I was worried when I saw him," said Bouchard, who offered Harvey a day of rest after the skiathlon.

"Maybe the rest put him to sleep for the sprint. An athlete like that needs to be awake. At the same time, (that rest) might have been good for the future because for a competition like this, there's four other tests in a week and a half — it's not easy."

Bouchard took the opportunity to point out that the sprint isn't the marquee race for Harvey as he's at a disadvantage being a distance skier.  Harvey is a world champion in the 50 km.

"It's not a natural discipline for him so if you want to get a good result you have to have it all in your hands," Bouchard added. "Today, the equipment was there — there was no problem there — but we quickly saw that he lacked energy."

The St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que., native showed the first signs of fatigue after the first climb of the course where he rapidly was double pushing with his skis. It was the same thing again with his second climb, although a bit longer.

"You know, very few of the skiers that took part in the skiathlon were on the start line for the sprint," Bouchard said. "It's boring, but there's still some chances for him. Then, he has to rest."

Harvey is still hoping to bring Canada its first medal in the history of men's cross-country skiing.

In the women's sprint, Cendrine Brown of Saint-Jerome, Que., finished in 3:34.30 for 51st place. Emily Nishikawa and Dahria Beatty, both from Whitehorse, finished 34th and 42nd, respectively.

Alexandre Geoffrion-McInnis, The Canadian Press

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