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Canadian skier Alex Harvey wins world cross-country gold in 50K, celebrates with air guitar

Canada's Alex Harvey celebrates winning the Men's Cross-Country 50 km at the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Lahti, Finland. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach

Alex Harvey raised his arms in triumph as he crossed the finish line at the Nordic world championships. Moments later he raised one leg and began strumming his skis as if they were a guitar.

Harvey’s exuberant air guitar celebration — a tradition for the Canadian team — followed a gold-medal performance on Sunday in the men’s 50-kilometre freestyle cross-country ski race.

It was his first world championship gold since 2011.

“This is the biggest race in cross-country skiing,” the St. Ferreol, Que., native said.

“It was so tough and fast out there. You need to have fast skis, great tactics, a bit of luck and some magic. Today I had the magic.”

The 28-year-old Harvey was in second place with five kilometres remaining in the race. He timed his final attack perfectly, taking the lead on the last corner and holding off Russian Sergei Ustyugov in the final sprint to win by 0.6 seconds.

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Matti Heikkinen of Finland was 0.8 seconds further back for bronze, with a surprise fourth place for British skier Andrew Musgrave.

Harvey’s final time was one hour, 46 minutes, 28.9 seconds.

PHOTO GALLERY: Alex Harvey competes in 50-kilometre freestyle cross-country ski race

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Russia's Sergey Ustiugov, Norway's Sjur Roethe, Switzerland's Dario Cologna, Great Britain's Andrew Musgrave and Canada's Alex Harvey, from left, in action during the Men's 50 km mass start competition at the 2017 Nordic Skiing World Championships in Lahti, Finland, 05 March 2017. Peter Klaunzer/EPA
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Alex Harvey of Canada (R) on his way to win the Men's Cross Country 50 km Freestyle race at the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Lahti, Finland, 05 March 2017. Markku Ojala/EPA
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Alexey Chervotkin of Russia (L), Alex Harvey of Canada (C) and Martin Johansson of Sweden (L) in action during the Men's Cross Country 50 km Freestyle race at the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Lahti, Finland, 05 March 2017. Markku Ojala/EPA
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Alex Harvey of Canada celebrates the first place at the Men's Cross Country 50 km Freestyle race at the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Lahti, Finland, 05 March 2017. Mauri Ratilainen/EPA
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From left to right, second placed Sergey Ustiugov of Russia, winner Alex Harvey of Canada and third placed Matti Heikkinen of Finland celebrate after the Men's Cross Country 50 km Freestyle race at the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Lahti, Finland, 05 March 2017. Mauri Ratilainen/ EPA
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Alex Harvey of Canada celebrates the first place at the Men's Cross Country 50 km Freestyle race at the FIS Nordic Ski World Championships in Lahti, Finland, 05 March 2017. Mauri Ratilainen/EPA

“It was a perfect day for me,” Harvey said. “The conditions were so fast and I knew that would play into my favour. I was fighting to stay near the front and out of trouble most of the way. I was just hoping to put myself in second position at the final Lahti corner.

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“I had amazing skis today so I knew that if I hit that corner in second place I had a good chance. My skis were really fast and I was able to slingshot perfectly around that corner and then it was mine to lose.”

Harvey won two gold medals at cross-country World Cups in January. One in a 15-km freestyle race in Sweden and the other in the team sprint relay with Toronto’s Len Valjas in Italy. He also has two bronze medals this season.

But Harvey hadn’t won a world championship title — nor had any other Canadian skier — since 2011 when he and Devon Kershaw won the team sprint event.

“It is unreal right now. I just wanted to stay out of trouble and not break any poles or skis,” Harvey said. “The last five kilometres you have to fight with everything you got and keep focus because that is when the energy is low. I was able to do that today.”

Ustyugov finished this year’s championships with five medals, two of them gold.

It was the last event of the Nordic world championships, which saw Norway take seven victories to top the medal table.

Marit Bjoergen finished with four gold medals as her Norwegian team won all six women’s cross-country events, while there were also four golds for German skier Johannes Rydzek in Nordic combined.

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Three other Canadians were also on the start line in the men’s 50-km race. Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., finished 38th at 1:52:14.4; Graeme Killick of Fort McMurray, Alta., was 43rd (1:53:32.9); and Knute Johnsgaard, of Whitehorse, placed 55th (1:58:32.2).

The Canadian team will travel to Oslo, Norway for the final two World Cup races before coming home for the World Cup Finals in Quebec City from March 17-19.

— With files from The Associated Press

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