Sunday, January 2, 2011

Man-Crush on Kersh

The first three stages of the 2011 Tour de Ski have forced me to finally admit, to myself and to the Nordic Commentary Project's vast global readership, that I have a giant man-crush on Devon Kershaw. Lest you judge me, I offer a defense of my stance on the man who is now solidly established as North America's best male cross-country ski racer.

First and foremost, he's fast as hell. His results at the Vancouver Olympics didn't quite garner a medal, but c'mon: fourth in the team sprint and that heartbreaking fifth in the 50? Awesome. Kershaw has been consistently improving his World Cup results for a couple years now, with nine top-10 finishes between 2006 and 2009, but has this season made a big jump up. So far,, he's taken four top 10s: 10th overall in the Kuusamo mini-tour, 9th in the Davos 15k classic, and now the amazing back-to-back second places at the Tour de Ski, behind only Dario Cologna in the 15km classic pursuit and Emil Jönsson in the classic sprint. Great, great stuff that bodes well for the short term (a good TdS result), the middle term (the Oslo World Championships), and the long term (the 2014 Olympic Games).

Second, "Kersh" seems like a pretty cool guy. On his entertaining Twitter stream, his (oh-so-infrequently-updated) blog, and elsewhere, he talks frankly about the ups and downs of racing (his account of that Olympic 50 was moving), about his own development as a racer (including the almost-indescribable tragedy that he faced as a junior), and about life as a top-level athlete. He's got a great, loose writing style that's very natural and appealing - and which makes his racing all the more notable. It shouldn't be a surprise to me that there's a brain under that Cross Country Canada headband, but it's nice to see it frequently confirmed.

In short: Go Kershaw, go! I can't wait to see how the rest of the Tour and the rest of the season go.