• Alex 50km Lahti Champion
    • Haywood RACE Report: Triple Gold for Bjoergen, Dasha Gaiazova Top Canadian

      February 28, 2011

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      Today was the 10k individual classic race for women at the World Nordic Championships in Oslo, Norway. Marit Bjeorgen edged out Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland by +4.1 seconds to claim the victory, Bjoergen's 3rd gold medal of the games.  Defending World Champion Aino Kaisa Saarinen proved again to be an excellent classic technique specialist winning the bronze medal.

      The Canadian team was led by Dasha Gaiazova in 37th, followed 5 seconds later by Perianne Jones. Chandra Crawford was 52nd and Brooke Gosling 56th.

      Results:
      http://www.fis-ski.com/pdf/2011/CC/2120/2011CC2120RL.pdf

      Next up is the men's 15k classic on Tuesday.

      It will be particularly interesting to watch for Canadian results in the remaining men's races as it looks like based on the pursuit race that Devon Kershaw and Ivan Babikov are coming back into top form.

      Devon had been some troubles with illness in the final preparation phase and had come into the Championships feeling a bit fatigued.  In yesterday's 30k Devon's snap was back and he felt that if it wasn't for some "traffic issues" in the final kilometre he would have had a good chance for a podium position.

      Ivan Babikov has been a bit of his usual form through the season to date, but skied an excellent classic section in the pursuit and was up near the top in his more favoured skating technique part of the race. In his post race comments Ivan also seemed to be feeling in excellent form and with a 50k skate race on the last day, could be one of the favourites.

      Alex Harvey appears to be the most in form Canadian at this point of the Championships and felt confident with his breakaway in the pursuit, that a place on the podium could be his. It was the same strategy he had used in 2009 when he held on for the bronze medal in the 50k world Cup in Trondheim. Unfortunately hip flexor cramping slowed him down over the last few kilometres this time and he faded to back to 12th.

      Canada now appears to be one of the major countries in the men's competition at the international level, based on yesterday's and the 2010 Olympics results.

      In 2010 we had 3 in the top 10, 4 in the top 16 in the pursuit, this year we had 3 in the top 15.  This year we tied with Norway and Italy for 3 in the top 15, with Russia and Germany placing 2 skiers in the top 15 and Sweden and Belarus.

      Following tomorrow's classic race, the team sprint will be next up on the schedule. For Canadian coach team selection may be a challenge. Do you go with the "veterans" such as Devon and Alex that are excellent sprinters but also have a good chance at relay and longer distance medals? Or do you give Len Valjas a chance to compete, who has shown excellent sprinting form to date. It appears Dasha and Chandra are the likely women's sprint team, having a bronze medal at that event at the Dusseldorf World Cup.

      The relays take place on Thursday and Friday, with the long distance events on Saturday and Sunday. In particular the 2 men's events could show some excellent performances by Canadians.

      FIS Report on the Women's Race:

      With the time of 27:39.3 Marit Bjeorgen edged out Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland by +4.1 seconds. Defending World Champion Aino Kaisa Saarinen proved again to be excellent classic technique specialist and won bronze medal.

      Justyna Kowalczyk started with the highest bib and had the advantage of complete information about what was happening in the race. The Polish ace started very strong and tried to surprise Marit Bjoergen. After 2.2 km Kowalczyk was in a clear lead by +9.6 seconds. Defending World Champion from Liberec 2009 Aino Kaisa Saarinen was third +15.5 sec behind Kowalczyk.

      At the 7.0 km mark Justyna Kowalczyk still maintained the lead and was by +8.3 seconds faster than Marit Bjoergen. However, the best Polish Cross-Country skier and Tour de Ski 2011 winner could not keep up the high pace all the way to the finish In the pre-finish was the Polish star only 1.9 sec ahead of the double World Champion Marit Bjoergen. The Norwegian was hammering strong in the last 2 km of the race.

      She had caught Marianna Longa of Italy earlier in the race and they came in the stadium together. Marit Bjoergen crossed the finish and the clock stopped at 27:39.3 sec. Justyna Kowalczyk was come strong from behind but was +4.1 sec too slow and claimed second silver medal at these World Championships. Finland’s Aino Kaisa Saarinen led the Finnish squad and captured bronze medal.

      Bjoergen’s compatriot and bronze medalist from 15 km Pursuit Therese Johaug finished fourth +23.7 sec behind the winner. Finnish ladies’ team did very well today with Krista Lahteenamaki on 5th, Pirjo Muranen on 6th and Kerttu Niskanen on 8th place.

      Quotes

      Marit Bjoergen NOR

      I really had to work hard for the victory today. I was told I was only 2 seconds behind Kowalczyk towards the end. Then I just went for it. I'm touched. I must admit I shed a few tears. Justyna started very strong. At 7.0 km she was 8 seconds ahead but towards the end of the race she slowed down. When I was only 2 seconds behind I could not believe it was true. Marianna Longa helped me a lot when I caught her. She was pushing very hard.

      Justyna Kowalczyk POL

      It was a good race. Very tough. I was 8 seconds ahead of Marit Bjoergen early on, but I was so tired in the last 3 km. I had very good information from my team and also from others alongside on the course. I was focused on my skiing. I'm very pleased with winning the sliver medal.

      Aino Kaisa Saarinen FIN

      This was my best performance this season and I'm happy with the bronze. The crowd was so loud I couldn't even hear what my coach was saying. I had a difficult season with a shoulder injury only 6 days before Gaellivare. Our service team did excellent job today. Of course I started in the race with the aim to win but Marit and Justyna were very strong.