Len Valjas Sprints to Eighth at World Cup in Finland

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March 9, 2013, Lahti, Fin (ISN) – Len Valjas led Canada’s cross-country skiing contingent with an eighth-place finish in a skate-ski sprint race at the World Cup in Lahti, Finland on Saturday.

Qualifying in sixth spot for the head-to-head heats with the fastest 30 athletes on the day, the 24-year-old Torontonian tucked his way into the middle of the pack on the tight Lahti course for most of his quarter-final heat. Using his 6’6″ frame to his advantage, the lanky Canuck held his own in a dash for the line down the finish stretch where he lunged for third spot in a photo finish to secure a lucky loser position in the semifinals.

“I felt really good today and feel really rested and healthy which is great considering I had all those days off at Worlds. The sickness is behind me and it was great today,” said Valjas, who moves to sixth overall in the World Cup sprint rankings. “It was a goal of mine to be up there in the sprint rankings. I want to be a consistent sprinter and this is proof of that. I’m not far out of the top-three either so I just need to keep going out and getting the job done.”

Quietly leading the Canadian men’s squad on the World Cup this year with two podium finishes on the Tour de Ski, and regularly fighting his way into the top-15 in sprint racing, Valjas’ quest for the podium came to the end in the second round on Saturday when he ended up fourth in his heat to finish eighth overall.

“The course today was in good condition and fast,” added Valjas. “I think today shows me things are looking good for the remaining sprint events coming up.”

Sweden’s Emil Joensson grabbed the gold medal, while Norway’s Ola Vigen Hattestad was second, and Finn Haagen Krogh, also of Norway, skied to the bronze medal step on the podium.

Three other Canadian men hit the start line, but did not qualify for the heats. Jesse Cockney, of Canmore, Alta., placed 50th; Alex Harvey, of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., was 56th; and Michael Somppi, of Thunder Bay, Ont., was 77th.

While no Canadian women qualified for the heats, it was Perianne Jones, of Almonte, Ont., leading the way in 34th spot. Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., qualified 39th; while Emily Nishikawa, of Whitehorse, placed 69th.

Kikkan Randall, of the United States, won the women’s sprint. Norway’s Marit Bjoergen claimed the silver medal, while Alena Prochazkova, of Slovakia, grabbed the bronze medal.

The World Cup continues on Sunday in Lahti with the 10- and 15-kilometre classic-ski 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=31859

Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:

1. Emil Joensson, SWE; 2. Ola Vigen Hattestad, NOR; 3. Finn Haagen Krogh, NOR; 4. Nikolay Chebotko, KAZ; 5. Gleb Retivykh, RUS.

Canadian Results:

8. Len Valjas, Toronto; 50. Jesse Cockney, Canmore, Alta.; 56. Alex Harvey, St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., 77. Michael Somppi, Thunder Bay, Ont.

Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:

1. Kikkan Randall, USA; 2. Marit Bjoergen, NOR; 3. Alena Prochazkova, SVK; 4. Britta Johansson Norgren, SWE; 5. Rikka Sarasoja-Lilja, FIN

Canadian Results:

34. Perianne Jones, Almont, Ont.; 39. Daria Gaiazova, Banff, Alta.; 69. Emily Nishikawa, Whitehorse.

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