CANMORE -- Ivan Babikov nearly brought home a cross-country medal for Canada. Or was it Russia?
Well yesterday at the World Cup in Canmore, he skied under the Russian flag, finishing fourth in the men's 15-km free.
Thing is, though, Babikov has actually been on Canada's national team for two weeks.
The 25-year-old Russian is a landed immigrant who lives in Canmore and is attempting to become a Canadian citizen.
"It's kind of 50-50 right now. Half Russian, half Canadian. It's kind of weird," joked Babikov after the race.
"Skiing in Vernon was the first time for me on Canada's team and today was the second."
Italy's Pietro Piller Cottrer won the race, easily leaving the field behind with a time of four minutes, nine seconds. France's Vincent Vittoz in 4:17.3 and Germany's Tobias Angerer (4:18.7) rounded out the podium. Babikov clocked in at 4:18.4.
Rossland, B.C.'s George Grey had his best career World Cup finish, grabbing 16th place.
Babikov has been in and out of Canada for the past few years as he periodically travels back to Russia to see his family and to make money -- something he's had trouble doing in Canada. But now he has the full support of Cross Country Canada, said CCC executive director Bruce Jeffries.
"It's been very difficult for him to make a living and he's been back to Russian to see his wife and child but now we're providing him support," said Jeffries, adding the goal is help Babikov get his Canadian citizenship.
"He's gotten to this point over the past few years on his own."
Jeffries added Babikov won't be able to ski for Canada in Turin at the 2006 Olympics.
Other Canadians racing included Gordon Jewett (44th), Graham Nishikawa (46th), Chris Jeffries (50th), Adam Kates (53th), Dan Roycroft (57th), Drew Goldsack (60th), David Nighbor (62nd), Kit Richmond (65th), Karl Saidla (67th), Sean Crooks (68th), Brent McMurtry (69th) and Stefan Kuhn (70th).