Valjas podium brings Canadian squad’s season medal total to 10
STOCKHOLM, Swe.—Canada’s Len Valjas added a bronze medal to what has already been a dream season after sprinting to the podium in the opening day of competition at the World Cup Cross-Country Skiing Finals in Stockholm, Sweden on Wednesday.
The 23-year-old Torontonian, who captured his first World Cup medal one week ago in Drammen, Norway, sprinted to the podium for the second-straight time in the classic-ski technique.
“I’m still a little shocked because I didn’t expect this finish, but I am really happy,” said Valjas, who grabbed the final spot in the top-30 for the head-to-head heats after battling through a difficult qualifier.
“I made a little mistake double poling in qualifying, but I was lucky to squeak into 30th. I had to dig deep, but it made it pretty fun to be able to move from 30th to the podium today.”
Using his size as leverage, the 6’6” long-limbed Canadian attacked the Stockholm sprint course around Sweden’s Royal Palace while following his strategy to stay with the group until the final climb to the finish area, which is the high point of the course, where he made his move in each heat including the finals.
“I think my size definitely helps with having a fast stride up the hills,” said Valjas, who also had a top-five finish in Finland earlier in the year. “This course was similar to Drammen which I really like. In each heat I was able to make my move up that final climb and it worked out. I had confidence from last week, and this definitely reassures me that I can do it <get on the podium>.”
Norway’s Erik Brandsdal won the men’s race. Sweden’s Teodor Peterson finished ahead of Valjas in second spot.
“We knew Len was capable of these performances. He trains alongside Devon <Kershaw> and Alex <Harvey> every day so we know his speed is there,” said Justin Wadsworth, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team. “Len is a very smart skier and knows where to make his move which is huge in sprint racing. It is amazing for sure to do this now, especially on courses in Scandinavia. It is pretty incredible.”
The podium finish brings the Canadian squad’s combined medal total to 10 on the World Cup this year, accomplishing the team’s collective goal set at the beginning of the season. Canada has placed a cross-country ski athlete in the top-five at nearly every World Cup stop this season.
In addition to Valjas, other Canadian medallists contributing to the medal haul this year include: Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey, Chandra Crawford, and Perianne Jones.
Five other Canadians also qualified for the heats on Wednesday. Alex Harvey, St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., had his day come to an end in the second round where he finished 14th, while Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., maintained his stranglehold of second spot in the Overall World Cup standings with a 19th-place finish. Calgary’s Kevin Sandau also hit the start line, but did not qualify for the heats, placing 50th in the men’s race.
Meanwhile, all three Canadian women also qualified for the heats with the top-30 athletes. Chandra Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., led the Canadian women with a solid 12th-place finish. Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., was not able to advance past the opening round where she finished 23rd. Alysson Marshall, of Salmon Arm, B.C., had one of her best World Cup results, placing 28th.
Norway’s Marit Bjoergen won the women’s race. Russia’s Julia Ivanova was second, while Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla rounded out the women’s poidum in third.
The World Cup Finals continue on Friday in Falun, Sweden with a short-distance skate-ski race.
Cross Country Canada is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 51,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas, Teck Resources Ltd. and Statoil – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee and Own the Podium, Cross Country Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on Cross Country Canada, please visit us at www.cccski.com.
Complete World Cup Results: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/1228.html?cal_suchsector=CC&;event_id=30414
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
1. Erik Brandsdal, NOR; 2. Teodor Peterson, SWE; 3. Len Valjas, Toronto, CAN; 4. Ola Vigen Hattestad, NOR; 5. Alexey Poltoranin, KAZ
Other Canadian Results:
14. Alex Harvey, St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que.; 19. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont.; 50. Kevin Sandau, Calgary
Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:
1. Marit Bjoergen, NOR; 2. Julia Ivanova, RUS; 3. Maiken Caspersen Falla, NOR; 4. Charlotte Kalla, SWE; 5. Katja Visnar, SLO
12. Chandra Crawford, Canmore, Alta.; 23. Daria Gaiazova, Banff, Alta.; 28. Alysson Marshall, Salmon Arm, B.C.