CCC RACE Report: Lenny Valjas 7th leads Canada in the Olympic sprint

    February 13, 2018

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    It was a cold, -6 deg. C., and windy night as the athletes began qualifying for the Olympic, classic sprint.

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    Conditions were a bit tricky for waxing, with hard granular snow, and some blowing and falling new snow collecting in the tracks in places, calling for a combination of klister and hard wax. The waxing challenges and a demanding course resulted in a significant spread in qualifying times

    In the qualifier Sweden's Stina Nilsson set the standard, just ahead of Maiken Falla but over 3 seconds ahead of 3rd place, Finland's Krista Parmakoski.

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    Emily Nishikawa, not normally noted for her sprint results, had a strong race and was the top Canadian, only 4 places from qualifying, in 34th place. Dahria Beatty was 42nd and Cendrine Browne 51st.
    Results

    On the men's side it was Ristomatti Hakola of Finland that narrowly edged Johannes Klaebo of Norway for the top spot.

    The top Canadian was Lenny Valjas in 26th. Lenny has been on the podium in classic World Cup sprints, but has been troubled by injuries, including early this winter which forced him home early from the World Cup. It was good to see him on track for the Olympic heats.

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    Alex Harvey has typically qualified for sprint finals in the late teens or twenties. Unfortunately, today his qualifying time was 1/4 of a second too slow, missing out on the heats in 32nd place. Jesse Cockney had a strong race finishing not far behind in 35th, with Russell Kennedy 55th.

    Alex was won of the few, top skiers from the skiathlon that entered the sprint, and it's possible the effort of that race meant the difference between qualifying or not. To look at the silver lining, not moving through to the finals, means Alex will have more rest as he prepares for the upcoming races, where he is still a strong bet for a medal.
    Results

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    The sprint final heats were raced under the lights at the Alpensia Ski Centre.

    Lenny was drawn into heat 4 along with 2 Scandinavian threats Oskar Svensson of Sweden and Emil Iversen of Norway.

    Emil Iversen of Norway set a fast opening pace in the heat, with Lenny at the back in the opening segment, just in contact with the leaders. On the 2nd uphill Lenny moved up a bit in the pack and on the final downhill moved to 3rd as they entered the stadium.

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    Lenny Valjas

    Lenny's time ended up being the fastest "lucky loser" time, so he moved on to the semifinals.

    In the final Lenny followed a similar strategy to his quarterfinal, cruising a bit at the back of the pack, as Hakola led out at the front. Svensson and Hakola traded the lead over the rest of the course with Lenny moving from 5th to 3rd on the final downhill as they entered the stadium.

    Unfortunately for Lenny, he was unable to make up more ground on the finishing straight, and ended up 3rd in the heat, not fast enough for a "lucky loser" position in the final. Lenny finished 7th overall.

    In the women's final Stina Nilsson of  Sweden dominated for the win, over Norway's Maiken Falla.
    Results

    In the men's final, Klaebo ran off with the win on the second hill, and Federico Pellegrino of Italy claimed silver.
    Results

    So a great performance by Lenny, and some close but not quite strong enough performances for Alex, Emily and Jesse.

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    09.02.2018, Pyeongchang, Korea (KOR): Canadian Team posing for a portrait under the Olympic Rings - XXIII. Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018, cross-country, training, Pyeongchang (KOR). www.nordicfocus.com. © Modica/NordicFocus.

    Next up in 2 days, is the women's 10k skate race, followed the next day by the men..

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