March 22, 2013, Falun, Swe (ISN) – A tired contingent of Canadian cross-country skiers searched for some medal-winning vibes from one year ago in Falun, Sweden to pull out a strong result on Friday at the World Cup Finals, but it wasn’t to be, with only two athletes squeaking into the top-30 of the prologue.
Toronto’s Len Valjas led the Canucks with a 27th-place finish after posting a time of 5:34.9 in the unique 2.5-kilometre short-distance skate-ski race. Alex Harvey, of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., was the only other Canadian to grab a spot in the top-30, grabbing the final spot at 5:35.5.
“This was such a good race for us last year and we were trying to get revved up thinking about that success, but the bodies just aren’t there right now,” said Justin Wadsworth, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team.
Harvey and Devon Kershaw, of Sudbury, Ont., captured the gold and bronze medals in the prologue one year ago in Falun, capping off a historic season for Canada’s Nordic squad.
Fast forward the clocks 12 months, and it is a different picture.
A packed travel schedule around the globe with World Cups on either side of the pond in addition to heavy training and competition has drained the Canadian gas tanks in the final weeks of the season following the World Championships.
The 30-year-old Kershaw placed 32nd on Friday with a time of 5:36.0. Michael Somppi, of Thunder Bay, Ont., was 44th (5:40.1), and Ivan Babikov, of Canmore, Alta., finished 52nd (5:50.9).
“We have analyzed things really well as a team, and reflected on what went wrong for us. Those five weeks at the beginning of the season were just too much,” said Wadsworth, who reinforced the team has had some great successes this year with four podium finishes on the Tour de Ski, in addition to Alex Harvey becoming the first Canadian male to win an individual medal at the World Championships. Perianne Jones and Daria Gaiazova also won a World Cup bronze medal in a team sprint race.
“We are expecting more because expectations are different now. We have to continue plugging along and stay positive. We’ll keep our spirits up to the end of the season and learn from this.”
The Norwegians showed they are anything but tired after sweeping the podium in the men’s prologue. Petter Northug won his second straight race at the World Championships with a time of 5:20.7. Paal Golberg skied to the silver medal at 5:22.8, while Anders Gloeersen completed the podium sweep with a time of 5:23.6.
Emily Nishikawa, of Whitehorse, led the Canadians in women’s action with a 41st place result (6:40.8). Daria Gaiazova, of Banff, Alta., was 49th at 6:46.8.
Norway’s Marit Bjoergen won the women’s 2.5-kilometre prologue with a time of 6:03.2. Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla was second at 6:07.6, while Kikkan Randall, of the United States, grabbed the final spot on the podium in third with a time of 6:09.8.
The World Cup Finals continue on Saturday in Sweden 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 World Cup Finals Results: http://www.fis-ski.com/uk/604/1228.html?cal_suchsector=CC&event_id=31863
Top-5 Men and Canadian Results:
1. Petter Northug, NOR, 5:20.7; 2. Paal Golberg, NOR, 5:22.8; 3. Anders Gloeersen, NOR, 5:23.6; 4. Calle Halfvarsson, SWE, 5:24.1; 5. Martin Johnsrud Sundby, NOR, 5:24.7
27. Len Valjas, Toronto, 5:34.9; 30. Alex Harvey, St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., 5:35.5; 32. Devon Kershaw, Sudbury, Ont., 5:36.0; 44. Michael Somppi, Thunder Bay, Ont., 5:40.1; 52. Ivan Babikov, Canmore, Alta., 5:50.9.
Top-5 Women and Canadian Results:
1. Marit Bjoergen, NOR, 6:03.2; 2. Charlotte Kalla, SWE, 6:07.6; 3. Kikkan Randall, USA, 6:09.8; 4. Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen, NOR, 6:10.3; 5. Justyna Kowalczyk, POL, 6:14.4
41. Emily Nishikawa, Whitehorse, 6:40.8; 47. Daria Gaiazova, Banff, Alta., 6:46.8.