Sonjaa Schmidt became the first Canadian to win Nordic under-23 gold at the World Ski Championships
Sonia Schmidt made her hometown of Whitehorse proud on Tuesday, becoming the first Canadian skater in history to win gold at the FIS U23 World Figure Skating Championships in Planica, Slovenia.
Schmidt clinched the gold medal during the final straight leg of the women’s 1.2-kilometre Sprint Final Classic, beating five competitors to cross the finish line first in a time of 2:35.82. Upon crossing, she raised her fist in the air to celebrate this historic achievement.
“It’s been a great day, and it hasn’t really shocked me yet,” Schmidt said as part of a Nordiq Canada press release. “It was also great to see all my teammates doing so well.”
Her appearance in Planica was the second FIS U23 World Championship for the 21-year-old. In 2023, Schmidt raced on her home turf as Whistler, British Columbia hosted the event – where she finished 36th in the qualifying round.
date! Sonia Schmidt is Canada’s first ever U23 Women’s World Champion!
Along with Canadian athletes and staff, Eric De Nes, Canada’s Next Generation coach, watched Schmidt make history.
“It was unbelievable,” De Nice said. “The athletes and staff gathered us near the finish line, and when I crossed the finish line, it was pure joy. We couldn’t have been more proud to be Canadian.”
De Nice, who begins his role as Canada’s Next Generation coach in August 2021, had the expectation that something special was coming.
“Our goal was to qualify the athlete for the semi-finals today,” De Nice said. “When we saw her win the semi-final, we knew today was going to be special.”
Three other Canadian women competed in the event besides Schmidt. Lillian Gagnon, who also competed at the U23 World Championships in Whistler, improved with another year under her belt, finishing eighth in the race with a time of 2:37.92.
British Columbian duo Yasmin Drolet and Amelia Wells rounded out the 2002-born Canadian quartet, finishing 33rd and 36th in qualifying respectively.
Looking to the future, the Canadian team is aiming to earn more medals as the U23 Championships continues, with a 10km playoff start and a 20km mass start over the next few days. The event concludes on Friday.
Deuling leads past qualifying
In the men’s races, only one Canadian advanced through the heats – Derek Dueling of Team Whitehorse. He placed 24th in the quarterfinals with a recorded time of 2:17.99. His teammate, Whitehorse-born Sasha Mason, came in 34th, while Ottawa’s Luke Allan was 31st.
The future of Canada’s cross-country skiing team looks bright with Schmidt, Gagnon and company at the helm, and there could be more medals in the pipeline before Friday.
“I think today was a big step for cross-country skiing in Canada, and I hope this result will inspire the next generation of skiers,” Schmidt said.