X-country skier ready for cup

BOB MACKIN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:29 AM ET

Cross-country skier Ivan Babikov is celebrating two milestones at the Whistler Olympic Park's International Ski Federation world cup, which begins Friday.

A year ago this Sunday, Russian-born Babikov became a Canadian citizen. Last March he became the Canadian champion in the 15 kilometre skate-style race on the Callaghan Valley Olympic trails.

"There is lots of snow here, the course is technical, with sharp turns, fast downhills and long uphills," Babikov said. "Legs are going to be tired."

Babikov, 28, hails from Syktyvkar, 1,000 kilometres northeast of Moscow. He moved to Canada in 2003 with his mother and settled in Canmore, Alta. He was 13th in 30 km pursuit for Russia at the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics, but wants to wear a medal and sing "O Canada" in 13 months.

"It was a big step for my family, we're really happy," he said. "The life is better. I'm really proud to be Canadian."

Cross-country skiing races go Friday to Sunday while Nordic combined - cross-country skiing and ski jumping - is Friday and Saturday. Admission is free to watch athletes from 21 countries compete in the test events for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at the $120 million venue.


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