Len Valjas Wins Bronze Medal at World Cup Cross Country Ski Finals in Sweden

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FALUN, Swe. (ISN) — Canada’s Nordic Knights are going to need an extra suitcase for their medal haul when they return home from the World Cup Finals on Monday. Topping off the most successful season in the history of the men’s program, the youngest member of the Canadian contingent – Toronto’s Len Valjas – delivered yet again, this time winning thebronze medal in the men’s 15-kilometre classic-ski race in Falun, Sweden after clocking a time of 43:16.2.

“This one definitely confuses me,” said the 23-year-old Valjas, who grabbed two sprint podiums in the last two weeks. “My goal was to stay close in the overall. I skied with a good pace and was in control all day.”

The strategy paid off.

With the world’s best athletes battling for bonus points throughout the challenging course which climbs the punishing Mördarbacken hill (murder hill), and then descends to the stadium, Valjas stuck to his game plan and began picking off the topNordic skiers in the world who began to tire down the stretch home.

“I felt so good on the final gradual climb,” said Valjas, who made his way into sixth coming into the finishing stretch. “I just stuck to my pace and didn’t waste energy going for the bonuses today. Coming into the finish people started dying. It just tried to pick as many off as I could. When I got to fifth and fourth, it was just an unreal feeling.”

Joining Valjas on the podium was overall World Cup leader, Dario Cologna of Switzerland, who won the race with a time of 43:14.9. Norway’s Eldar Roenning was second at 43:15.3.

Known as a sprinter, it has been nothing short of a dream month for Valjas and the Canadian squad. The 6’6″ Canuck kicked off one of the most remarkable months in the history of the Canadian cross-country ski program with his first career medal in Drammen, Norway last week when he won the silver. Valjas followed that performance up with a bronze medal in Wednesday’s classic-ski sprint in Stockholm, Sweden.

“I’m not sure how I’m doing all of this,” said Valjas, who sits in second in the overall World Cup Finals mini-tour. “We had a great training camp in Italy last month and I’ve just been building from that. I just can’t ask for anything more right now.”

Nor can Devon Kershaw who is about to officially write his name in the history books as the most successful skier in Canadian history. With one race remaining on Sunday, the two-time Olympian will officially become the first Canadian male to finish second in the overall World Cup standings.

Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., finished a solid fifth on Saturday with a time of 43:17.9. A winner of five medals this season, including a bronze on Friday, Kershaw also sits inthird spot in the overall World Cup Finals mini-tour.

Alex Harvey, of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., finished 18th at 44:19.4, while Calgary’s Kevin Sandau raced to 33rd (45:23.8).

Valjas’ podium finish now brings the Canadian squad’s combined medal total to 13 on the World Cup this year, surpassing the team’s collective goal of 10 set at the beginning of the season.

“Now this is truly amazing,” laughed Justin Wadsworth, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team. “Lenny has not done many distance races this year, but he has had success in Opa Cups. I am a bit blown away. It is unreal.”

The women will start a 10-kilometre race this afternoon. The World Cup Finals wrap up on Sunday in Falun, Sweden with the pursuit races.

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=30415

Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:

1. Dario Colonga, SUI, 43:14.9; 2. Eldar Roenning, NOR, 43:15.3; 3. Len Valjas, Toronto, CAN, 43:16.2; 4. Niklas Dyrhaug, NOR,43:16.8; 5. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., CAN, 43:17.9.

Other Canadian Results:

18. Alex Harvey, St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., 44:19.4; 34. Kevin Sandau, Calgary, 45:23.8.

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