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Canadian Women Take World Champs 10 k for What It’s Worth

Dasha Gaiazova attacking one of several climbs in the women's 10 k freestyle individual start on Tuesday at the 2013 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy. The top Canadian, Gaiazova was 40th.

Dasha Gaiazova attacking one of several climbs in the women’s 10 k freestyle individual start on Tuesday at the 2013 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy. The top Canadian, Gaiazova was 40th.

FasterSkier’s coverage of the 2013 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, is brought to you by the generous support of Fischer Sports.

VAL DI FIEMME, Italy – Sometimes you just gotta get out there and race. That’s the attitude the three Canadian women went with in Tuesday’s 10-kilometer freestyle individual start at the 2013 Nordic World Ski Championships.

On a day marked by average to so-so performances by World Cup team member Dasha Gaiazova, Alberta World Cup Academy skier Emily Nishikawa, and former national team member Brittany Webster (Highlands Trailblazers), head coach Justin Wadsworth pointed out nothing ventured, nothing gained.

“[We’re] going for good pacing, strong finish and just to stay tough and have the best race possible,” Wadsworth said after the second of three distance races at World Championships. “Where are women are in distance skiing at this time, we just have to really keep focusing on those things and just hope that people have solid races and execute the things that they can do.

“It’s the same focus we have with anybody,” he added. “Just execute your race plan. You can’t go for a certain place.”

Gaiazova, 29, was Canada’s top finisher in 40th, 2:14.2 minutes back from winner Therese Johaug of Norway. A classic sprint specialist, Gaiazova said she held some hope for the distance event, especially after placing 27th in a 10 k classic World Cup Jan. 19 in La Clusaz, France.

“Sometimes I race well in distance,” she said. “Today I was definitely trying to race my best, but it didn’t go so well. … It’s just a kind of average day.”

Wadsworth said it was good she raced since she’s only got one World Championships event left: the 4 x 5 k relay with Perianne Jones, Nishikawa and Webster.

“It not only could potentially be a good race for her, it’s good training, too,” he said. “She’s capable of top 30 in a race like today, so she still has to work on her pacing. She’s a little bit too slow out of the start, but she skied a strong second lap.”

After starting 17th, Gaiazova’s time at the 1.8-k checkpoint ended up ranking 60th of 77 finishers. By 6.8 k, she improved to the 47th-fastest time.

Three days after a heart concern caused her to drop out of the 15 k skiathlon, Nishikawa replicated her result from last week’s classic sprint at her first World Championships. She was 57th again, this time 3:15.3 back from the winner, but less focused on her result, Nishikawa was grateful to race again.

On Saturday, the 23-year-old Yukon native felt her heart beating abnormally early in the skiathlon.

“My heart started [beating] so fast,” she said. “We got it checked out the next day, and if it happens again, we know it’s not dangerous so that was a big relief.”

Given the go-ahead to compete, Nishikawa said she was happy to be out there on Tuesday.

“That in itself was a big success, just to finish the race and push hard,” she said.

Her best World Cup result came in mid-December in Canmore, Alberta, where she was 34th in a 15 k skiathlon. Also in Canmore, Nishikawa was 48th in a 10 k classic mass start.

“It’s not the best result but I tried my best,” she said Tuesday. “My first good race in a long time.”

Webster, 25, was less enthused with 68th (+4:21), but tried not to overthink it.

“My shape is just really bad right now; that’s a year and a half off racing and not training much,” she said. Before having surgery on her leg last fall, Webster took a step back from full-time racing in 2011/2012 and decided to return this season.

One thing she was reminded of Tuesday: this sport is really hard, especially in a place like Val di Fiemme.

“All the climbs are really steep and you need to have some good power to put out there,” Webster said. “Racing on the World Cup kind of blows you away. The fact that for every two of your steps they’re taking one and they’re going another foot forward. Just gotta learn how to do that.”

All in all, “it’s something to go from,” she said. “I have a lot of energy, I just don’t have a lot of fitness. From here you can build. If you’re tired and you go into this, you can’t build from that so at least that’s a positive.”

With the four remaining Canadian women at World Championships looking forward to the relay, Wadsworth said he’ll confer with women’s coach Eric de Nys and assistant coach Louis Bouchard as to what order they’ll choose. Webster said she would like to do one of the classic legs, but would have to wait to hear what the coaches decide.

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About Alex Kochon

Alex Kochon (formerly Matthews) is the managing editor at FasterSkier and to most people's surprise, not a guy. When she's not writing, you can find her outdoors in upstate New York or doing the gym thing as a certified personal trainer. Follow her on Twitter @active_alex.

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