Antoine Cyr, Graham Ritchie 7th for Canada at cross-country ski worlds

Canadians Antoine Cyr and Graham Ritchie raced to a solid seventh-place finish at the nordic world ski championships on Sunday in Oberstdorf, Germany.

Ritchie, of Parry Sound, Ont., and Gatineau, Que., native Cyr posted a time of 15 minutes 18.80 seconds in the skate-ski team sprint.

At 22, Cyr and Ritchie were the youngest team in the men’s finals on Sunday.

“This is eye opening and very cool for us to have Canada right there in the mix,” Ritchie told Nordiq Canada. “It hasn’t sunk in yet really, but we have the confidence and thought we could do it. It is pretty cool.”

The duo was 17.06 seconds off the pace set by gold medallists Erik Valnes and Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo of Norway.

Ristomatti Hakola and Joni Maki of Finland finished second, and Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov and Gleb Retivykh took bronze.

In team sprint, athletes each ski three laps, handing off to their teammate after completing each 1.3-kilometre leg. Race organizers changed the qualification format on Sunday due to quickly changing snow conditions as a result of warm temperatures. The top-four teams in each of the two heats advanced to the finals along with the next two fastest times overall. 

‘We have a strong group of young guys’

“The conditions were rock solid in the semis and then it was completely different with two inches of slush in the final about an hour later,” said Ritchie, who was 17th in an individual World Cup sprint race last month in Sweden.

“We knew we had to be in the top-four in our semi to get to the final. That was our goal, and we did it.”

Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw, the first Canadians to win a world championship in 2011 in team sprint, have been a source of inspiration for Cyr and Ritchie.

“I will always remember watching those two win in Oslo. It was really inspiring, and they are both big influencers in our careers,” said Cyr. “Alex is a good friend of mine and he is regularly in contact with me — giving me tips and tricks to ski on the World Cup scene. They are mentors for both of us.

“We have a strong group of young guys here in Canada with a bunch of confidence to do this over the next few years,” added Ritchie. “We know it will take some time but today we were less than one second off fifth place. We know we can be at the level now [to compete] and that is awesome.”

On the women’s side, Dahria Beatty of Whitehorse and Maya MacIsaac-Jones of Athabasca, Alta., finished 12th overall after failing to qualify for the finals.

Sweden’s Maja Dahlqvist and Jonna Sundling won the women’s race, with Switzerland’s Laurien Van Der Graaff and Nadine Faehndrich one second behind. Slovenia’s Eva Urevc and Anamarija Lampic rounded out the medal podium.