January 13, 2013, LIBEREC, Cze. (ISN) – Canada’s Daria Gaiazova skied a hair short of her first individual World Cup podium after finishing fourth in a photo finish at a classic cross-country ski sprint race on Saturday in Liberec, Czech Republic.
Building on the momentum gained from winning a bronze and silver medal at OPA Continental Cup races in Germany last weekend, the 29-year-old Gaiazova was on a mission for the World Cup podium in Liberec – site of the 2013 Under-23 and Junior World Championships. But the Banff, Alta., Olympian was nudged off the podium in a photo finish for the silver and bronze medals.
“I’m supper happy with fourth and my best ever World Cup finish,” said Gaiazova, who won a bronze medal in 2010 in the team sprint with Chandra Crawford. “I really believe a podium will come this year. I believe in that and I am committed to.”
After qualifying in 10th for the head-to-head heats with the top-30, Gaiazova moved into the second round after finishing in a dead heat with eventual race winner Mona-Lisa Malvalehto of Finland in her quarter-final draw. The top-two athletes move on to the next round. Gaiazova punched her ticket into the first final of her career after placing second in her semifinal heat where she was also matched up with Canada’s Perianne Jones.
Racing with some of the top sprinters in the world, Gaiazova made smart, tactical decisions while drafting the leaders for the majority of her two trips around the thin layer of snow covering the one-kilometre loop. While Finland’s Malvalehto powered herself to an easy win, Gaiazova was in the middle of a furious sprint to the finish line were she was edged out of the medals.
Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk was second, while Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla snagged the bronze medal.
“It was a great way to kick off 2013 and I’m super pumped,” said Gaiazova. “The wax techs did a great job on my skis today and the staff really helped me get ready for this race. I feel really good and I am excited for the team sprint with Perianne tomorrow.”
Speaking of Perianne Jones. The Almonte, Ont. skier put down another personal best World Cup finish. Leading the Canadians into the heats with the seventh fastest qualifying time around the track, the 27 year old’s day came to an end in the semifinals where she crossed the line fifth, and finished a career-best ninth.
“I’m super happy with how things went today,” said Jones, who also claimed a bronze medal in a team sprint last year. “I love classic sprinting and I’m feeling really strong. It went really well today.”
Chandra Crawford, of Canmore, Alta., also qualified for the heats, but was knocked out in the opening round and finished 29th.
The Canadian success story carried into the men’s race. With little rest following the completion of his first Tour de Ski where he captured two podium finishes, Toronto’s Len Valjas sprinted into 10th spot in the men’s race.
After advancing into the second round, the 24-year-old Valjas skied near the back of the pack in the semifinal heat where he was not able to make a charge to the front. His quest for the podium came to an end after finishing fifth in his heat.
Sweden’s Teodor Peterson won the men’s race. Emil Joensson, also of Sweden, sprinted to the silver medal, while Norway’s Paal Golberg grabbed the bronze.
The World Cup continues on Sunday in Liberec with the team sprint 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 55,000 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, AltaGas, Statoil and Canadian Pacific – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium and B2ten, Cross Country Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on Cross Country Canada, please visit us at www.cccski.com.
Complete Results: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/1228.html?cal_suchsector=CC&event_id=31855
1. Mona-Lisa Malvalehto, FIN; 2. Justyna Kowalczyk, POL; 3. Maiken Caspersen-Falla NOR; 4. Daria Gaiazova, Banff, Alta., CAN; 5. Celine Brun-Lie, NOR
Other Canadian Results:
9. Perianne Jones, Almonte, Ont.; 29. Chandra Crawford, Canmore, Alta.
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
1. Teodor Peterson, SWE; 2. Emil Joensson, SWE; 3. Paal Golberg, NOR; 4. Erik Brandsdal, NOR; 5. Tim Tscharnke, GER
Top-30 Canadian Results:
10. Len Valjas, Toronto;