19 janvier 2009

Harvey gives it all for medal finish

Canadian team grabs bronze in pre-Olympic World Cup at Whistler

Terry Bell

WHISTLER -- Talk about great pre-Olympic moments.

With his famous father Pierre Harvey watching in the broadcast booth, 20-year-old Alex Harvey chased down the pack over the final few hundred metres Sunday and won Canada a bronze medal in men's team sprint at the 2009 Viessmann FIS Cross Country World Cup here in the Callaghan Valley at Whistler Olympic Park.

"I knew he was good, I didn't know he was that good," screamed an excited Pierre -- a four-time Olympian -- as his son moved from fifth place to third, first passing Italy's Pietro Piller Cottrer who had crashed with 200 metres to go and then nipping Russian Alexei Patukhov at the finish.

With that spurt Harvey, of St-Ferreol, Que., and 29-year-old veteran George Grey of Rossland, earned Canada it's first ever World Cup medal in this event.

"I was right in the stadium and I ran about 50 metres of the finishing stretch cheering this guy on," said Grey, who's father Rob, an orthopedic surgeon who works with the Canadian cross country team, was also in the stadium.

"I was just about losing my voice," Grey continued. "I could taste that medal. I knew he could get it. He was waiting for it and he just punched it through the finish and we got bronze."

The crowd of about 3,000 were screaming their lungs out right along with Grey as the kid made his move.

As loud as the din was, Harvey said he couldn't hear the crowd or his dad, who competed in cycling in the 1976 and '84 summer Olympics and in cross country in the '84 and '88 winter Games.

"The stadium is such a long stadium," Alex said. "In the last corner, when you tuck into the stadium I tried to close the gap without wasting too much energy.

"I was in my bubble. I couldn't hear them. I was just concerned about the finish."

Both Harvey and Grey, obviously, were elated.

"It means Canada's men's relay team can podium on the World Cup and at the Olympics," said Harvey, who met the 2010 Olympic qualifying standard Sunday. Grey had already reached it with a ninth-place finish at a World Cup earlier this season in Europe.

"It's special, for sure," Harvey said. "Every World Cup medal is special for sure because it means you're the third best country in the world."

The Swedish team of Robin Bryntesson and Emil Joensson won the gold in this event, which sees each skier do three laps of the 1.6-kilometre course.

They finished in 19 minutes, 44.10 seconds, just 2/10ths ahead of the Italian brothers Fabio and Renato Pasini and 0.60 seconds ahead of the Canadians. Nikolai Morilov and Petukhov, the Russian duo, ended up fourth, 2/10ths back of Canada.

A second Canadian pair, Calgary's Brent McMurtry and Phil Widmer, of Banff, Alta., made the 10-team final and placed ninth in 19:54.90.

Italy's Magda Genuin and Arianna Follis won the women's race. No Canadian team made the final.

"I think my dad was speechless and pretty emotional, seeing his little kid doing like he did a couple of years ago," continued Harvey. "To have him here ... its' nice to share the moment with him.

"I'm surprised. I'm ahead of what I thought I could do."

Harvey, who won a silver medal at last year's world junior championships, is in his first World Cup season. He had a best-ever 12th place finish in a 1.6-kilometre sprint on Friday.

Last spring Harvey ended his season early to have surgery on the arteries in his left leg. The procedure improved the blood flow, reduced the pain and made him more powerful. It paid off Sunday.

"I knew my legs were good and the skis were good for the whole race," he said when asked about the final sprint. "I knew we had a chance to be on the podium." "This is a stepping stone to the Olympics," said Grey. "I've been looking for this for a long time. ... I'm just about 10 years older than my partner here.

"My father said [Saturday] it's podium time tomorrow and I said, 'Well dad, there's lots of work to do before we get a podium.' I never count my chickens before they hatch.

"This is great for us," continued Grey who trains and races 11 months of the year and is away from his home in Canmore, Alta., for seven months of the year.

"But this means we can podium at the 2010 Games. We're a serious threat. I'm just super excited, motivated and ready to go."

World Cup medals can do that for you. And so can a 20-year-old kid with a future as bright as Sunday's Whistler sunshine.

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