SPORTS

Cross-country team psyched to be at WCup in Canmore, but tempering expectations

12/12/2012 04:37 EST | Updated 02/11/2013 05:12 EST
CANMORE, Alta. - There's little doubt that Canadian cross-country ski star Devon Kershaw should be among the favourites at the Alberta World Cup in Canmore.

But the notoriously slow starter doesn't want to bet the farm on it.

"I've won three World Cups in my career and it was a very special feeling, and to win in Canmore would be a dream come true. But don't go betting on me to win please," said the Sudbury, Ont. native after a final training run at the Canmore Nordic Centre prior to the event, which begins Thursday.

"I'm feeling a bit better now than I have the past few weeks but I know my body and I'm not in top form right now. I do have a bit of an injury but it's not such a huge deal."

Kershaw, who has yet to win a medal so far in the early World Cup season, put his odds of winning at 100-to-1.

But he also acknowledges that he and the rest of the Canadian team are often slow starters. He's focusing his energy on preparing his February defence of his World Championship title along with Alex Harvey in team sprint.

"Last year at this time of year I wasn't in the top 30 overall and it's always hard to do. I don't know why I start so slow," he said.

"I train a lot in the fall to make sure I can last the entire season and not become what is termed in cross-country as a 'Christmas star,' so I have to trust in the training we do."

The national team had a mediocre performance in the first Canadian outing in Quebec City last week.

"It was disappointing. It was more than jitters. It was just we were so amped, so excited," said Chandra Crawford, who won Olympic gold in 2006 and her first World Cup gold medal here in 2008. "I woke up five hours before my race and was just fired to go and you really don't want to do that."

"It's great that we have so many races in Canada. We can kind of get the ball rolling. The crowd is great and they love us no matter what and I just want to do something special because I appreciate them so much."

Chandra, who grew up in Canmore, finished 32nd last weekend while teammate Perianne Jones of Almonte, Ont., was 38th.

"I had pretty high expectations going into last weekend and it didn't go as planned so my first goal is to make it into the top 30 and just go from there. We're going back to the basics," said Jones.

Athletes will compete in a 10-and-15-kilometre skate-ski race on Thursday, followed by a skate-sprint race Saturday and a skiathlon on Sunday.

"I think we can expect to be out there. But I'm not thinking of any results or numbers. I just want to feel good and be skiing well technically," said Harvey, who grew up in St-Ferreol-les-Neiges, Que.

"We are competitive by nature. Every time I put a bib on I want to win that race even though chances are I won't win it."

Harvey was the lone bright spot last weekend, finishing 21st at the first-ever World Cup in Quebec City. He was the lone Canadian to qualify for the finals of the head-to-head heats.

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