Ivan Babikov finished eighth in the men’s 15-kilometre cross country race at Whistler on Monday, representing the best Olympic placing ever by a Canadian in this event.
The Canmore native was just 54 seconds behind gold medalist Dario Cologna, of Switzerland, a feat that left the Canadian more than happy.
“I don’t know what to say,” Babikov told the Toronto Star. “It’s a perfect day for me.
“I didn’t expect to win the race. I was not the big favourite and I just tried to make my preparations like always and just focus on the race and everything was good.”
Babikov’s time of 34 minutes, 30.0 second was less than two seconds back of seventh and only about 26 seconds off a medal.
Pietro Piller Cottrer of Italy won silver and Lukas Bauer from Czech Republic won bronze.
Babikov was born in Russia and competed for his home country in the last Winter Games, placing 10th at Torino. He has lived in Canada since 2003.
Cologna, the gold medalist, finished with a time of 36:36.3 to bring home Switzerland’s third gold medal of the Games.
“It was an incredible race for me,” Cologna told the Vancouver Sun. “I had a very good feeling from the start. I didn’t believe that I could win the 15K free.”
Alex Harvey, whose father Pierre competed in four Olympics and is noted as the best male cross country skier to come out of Canada, finished 21st in a time of 34:55.6.
“I wanted to break the ice,” Alex told the Toronto Star. “It was a good race to prepare for the 30 K in five days.
“It’s exactly what I wanted to accomplish today. I’m officially an Olympian. When I go on the start line in the 30 K, I won’t be a rookie anymore.”
Canadian George Grey was 29th and teammate Gordon Jewett took 52nd. Grey had a time of 35:13.0 and Jewett finished at 36:17.9.