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2023-24 Team Canada Winter Preview: Ski Jumping, Cross-Country Skiing, Biathlon

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With summer training and competitions behind Team Canada athletes, the focus is on the winter season, particularly now for Canadians competing in Nordic sports at the highest level.

Medals haven’t always been easy to come by for Canadians competing in ski jumping, cross-country skiing, and biathlon. But the 2023-24 season presents exciting potential after Canada’s current crop of Nordic sport athletes posted some of their best results in 2022-23, shocking some of the world’s powerhouses.

With the World Cup season upon us, Team Canada gets you prepared for the athletes you need to watch over the winter months in ski jumping, cross-country skiing, and biathlon.

Ski Jumping

Who to Watch:

Coming out of Beijing 2022, Canada emerged as a prominent nation in ski jumping – something the country hadn’t experienced since the 1980s.

With the ski jumps at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary no longer operational, Canada’s top ski jumpers have their home-away-from-home in Europe, training at some ski jumping hotbeds and elevating themselves to the top of the world.

  • Alexandria Loutitt shows a wide grin while wearing her gold medal
  • Alexandria Loutitt mid ski jump with her skis in a V shape against a black night sky
  • Alexandria Loutitt yells in excitement after seeing her score

On the women’s side, Canada has two of the best in 19-year-old Alexandria Loutitt and 22-year-old Abigail Strate. The pair of Calgarians were part of Canada’s historic team bronze medal at Beijing 2022 before really bursting onto the international scene last season.

Loutitt, who began jumping at nine years old after watching the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games as a six-year-old, became Canada’s first-ever ski jumping world champion in 2023, a crowning achievement in a year that saw her secure two World Cup podium finishes – including the first-ever victory by a Canadian female ski jumper.

READ MORE: A story of kindness: Alexandria Loutitt

She secured her first career World Cup gold medal in Zao, Japan, adding a second-place finish in Lillehammer, Norway in March. A proud Indigenous athlete from Gwich’in First Nation, Louttit also struck gold on Canadian snow when she won the world junior title in Whistler, B.C.

She kept the momentum going this summer, finishing third overall on the Grand Prix circuit thanks to four bronze medals against some of the elite competitors she will face this winter.

Meanwhile, Strate is also among the sport’s best, reaching an individual World Cup podium for the first time in January as she finished third in Hinterzarten, Germany. She cracked the top five three times during the summer Grand Prix series to finish sixth overall.

Joining the two premier women are 23-year-old Nicole Maurer and 25-year-old veteran Natalie Eilers, both of whom have been competing in World Cup events since 2017.

On the men’s side, four-time Olympian Mackenzie Boyd-Clowes revealed via Instagram that he is taking a break from competition after more than a decade as Canada’s top male ski jumper.

While Canada won’t host any major events in 2023-24, the FIS World Cup season starts November 24 in Ruka, Finland and continues through to mid-March.

Cross-Country skiing

Competitions in Canada:

Who to Watch:

Canada’s young group of cross-country skiers look to take the next step in their development in 2023-24, coming off some positive progression last season.

Antoine Cyr and Graham Ritchie, both 25, had a big result when they finished fourth in the team sprint free at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, building on their fifth-place result from the 2022 Olympic Winter Games a year prior.

Individually, Cyr will look to push himself onto the podium after posting a career-best fourth-place result in the 15km classic mass start in January in Val Di Femme, Italy, a stage of the famed Tour de Ski.

Joining them for the first few World Cup stops will be 22-year-old Olivier Léveillé and 20-year-old Xavier McKeever. That quartet teamed up for a fifth-place finish in the 4x10km relay at the 2023 FIS World Championships, Canada’s best result in the event since 2009.

After reaching the junior world championship podium in 2021, Léveillé has had some promising results since becoming a full-time member of the World Cup team, including his first individual top-10 on the World Cup circuit in March 2022.

McKeever is embarking on his first World Cup opener. He is still gaining experience as a senior competitor, having only competed in a handful of World Cup stops towards the end of the last two seasons. But he’s got plenty of support behind him, including his parents, Robin McKeever and Milaine Theriault, who are both Olympians.

Leading Canada on the women’s side will be Olympian Katherine Stewart-Jones. The 28-year-old earned her first individual top-10 on the World Cup circuit last season and looks to use that as a launching pad for more premier results. For the first few stops this season, she’ll be joined by a World Cup debutante, Amelia Wells.

Canada’s top cross-country skiers will get a chance to race on home snow as the World Cup circuit hits Canmore, Alberta, from February 9 to 13. There are nine stops before that, starting November 24 in Ruka, Finland. From December 30 to January 7, skiers will also compete in the annual Tour de Ski, which encompasses three World Cup stops.

Retirement Rundown:

For the first time since 2015, the Canadian contingent at the World Cup opener will not include Dahria Beatty. The two-time Olympian retired following her fourth senior world championship appearance in 2023. She made 95 World Cup starts throughout her career.

Biathlon

Competitions in Canada:

World Championships:

  • IBU World Championships – February 7-18, 2024 – Nove Mesto Na Morave, Czechia

Who to Watch:

Led by Emma Lunder, Canada’s biathletes have taken great steps to establish themselves among the best in the world for the first time in a generation.

To kick off last season in Kontiolahti, Finland, Lunder posted a fourth-place finish in the 7.5km sprint before finishing fifth in the 10km pursuit. Towards the end of the season, she earned another career-best result, placing fifth in the 15km individual event in Oestersund. In between, she finished seventh in the 12.5km mass start at the IBU World Championships, her first time breaking into the top 10 individually at the worlds.

Joining her for the first trimester of the World Cup season is Nadia Moser. The 26-year-old was the only other Canadian woman within the top 50 of the World Cup rankings last season. She teamed with Lunder, Adam Runnalls, and Christian Gow for an eighth-place finish in the 4x6km mixed relay at the 2023 World Championships.

Runnalls and Gow will form Canada’s primary World Cup team on the men’s side. Just 25, Runnalls achieved a career-best result last season when he finished 13th in the 10km sprint in Antholz. It was his first time breaking into the top 15 individually.

At 30 and with two Olympic appearances behind him, Gow is the veteran. He’s been a top 10 finisher before, most recently at the start of the 2021-22 season. He went on to finish 12th in the sprint at Beijing 2022.

In a season that could be a breakout for Canada’s biathletes, they can look forward to the final World Cup event on the calendar taking place March 14-17 in Canmore. There are eight World Cup stops before that, starting November 25-December 3 in Oestersund, Sweden, as well as the IBU World Championships in Nove Mesto Na Morave, Czechia in February.

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