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Widmer, Cockney win cross-country ski race

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The Canadian Press
1/11/2014 4:57:03 PM
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CANMORE, Alta. -- Canadians Heidi Widmer and Jesse Cockney won the women's and men's cross-country ski races at the Buff Sprints on Saturday, bringing them a step closer to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The Buff Sprints are serving as selection races to determine the final four spots on Canada's 2014 Olympic cross-country skiing team. The 22-year-old Widmer, from Banff, Alta., completed an emotional day by handily winning the women's sprint race.

"I have raced these trails and trained on them so many times, but this just feels so surreal," said Widmer, who broke into tears at the finish line. "I was on a mission for this. I didn't want to be one of those Olympiczillas getting caught up in it all. There are so many ups and downs. I just wanted to stay focused on the process and not look back or ahead of myself.

"This is a dream come true, but I have only completed part one. Now the real journey and work begins."

Three-time Olympic biathlete Zina Kocher of Red Deer, Alta., made a charge to get her name in the mix to also compete on the Canadian cross-country ski team at the Games. Kocher finished second. Andrea Dupont, of Timmins, Ont., placed third.

While being interviewed in the finish corral, Heidi Widmer broke into tears when her older brother Phil walked past to hit the start line to secure an Olympic spot of his own.

"My inspiration is right there," said Heidi Widmer. "I just wish I can channel some of this energy his way. He has been there for me the whole way."

The 30-year-old Widmer, who was fighting for a return trip to the Games, was in a tight competition with 24-year-old Cockney, who was looking for his first trip to the Olympics.

Phil Widmer took the lead early and held it around the hilly 1.7-kilometre track, which simulates the challenge athletes will face at the Nordic venue in Sochi, Russia at the Olympics. Cockney, from Canmore, Alta., tucked in behind Widmer until the final 100 metres when he sprinted to the front of the pack to win the final race of the trials.

"I just kept telling myself to get to the line," said Cockney. "Phil has been so strong, and I took that outside lane for the finish. I didn't know what else to do, but I just wanted to get to the line. It has been years of hard work. I don't know if it is official. I did all that I can do and I just want to enjoy this moment."

Widmer sprinted to the silver, while Patrick Stewart-Jones, of Chelsea, Que., was third.

Get ready for Sochi in 2014 (Photo: TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)

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(Photo: TOSHIFUMI KITAMURA/AFP/Getty Images)
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