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 – If you’re a Canadian fan and were troubled by the ‘DNF’ listed by your team in Thursday’s 4 x 5-kilometer relay results, don’t be too concerned. They didn’t quit, get lapped or taken out. In fact, the first three women did quite well in the team event. They just didn’t have an anchor.
Leading up to this year’s Nordic World Ski Championships, the Canadian National Ski Team had been looking forward to fielding a women’s relay. It’s an event they haven’t excelled at recently, placing last in the 2011 World Championships and 2010 Olympics, but they’re hoping to change that by next year’s Winter Games. World Championships seemed like a perfect place to get some practice.
Unfortunately, one of their four women still in Val di Fiemme, Brittany Webster woke up sick and unable to compete on Thursday. (The Canadians brought a total of five women to World Championships, but sprinter Andrea Dupont of Rocky Mountain Racers left after last week’s individual sprint.)
Still, they wanted to put something together and decided to let Dasha Gaiazova, Perianne Jones and Emily Nishikawa have at it. Gaiazova scrambled, rising to third early on the first of two 2.5 k laps. Fourth at the halfway point, she faded to 11th by the exchange.
“Dasha fought really hard,” Canadian women’s coach Eric de Nys said. “For the first 2.5 k she was in the lead group. About 3.3 k she just hit the wall, but she really pushed hard and that was the big goal, to stay in front as long as possible.”
Gaiazova tagged to Jones, 54.6 seconds behind the Norwegians in first. Jones held onto 11th, fending off the Czech Republic and Ukraine.
“Peri started her leg on her own and was kind of skiing with Ukraine and Czech Republic and at the end dropped them both,” de Nys said. “She started well and the middle portion was not so good and then was strong again at the end.”
That’s about all Jones wanted in her last race at the 2013 World Championships. Both she and Gaiazova are best suited for sprints and will not be doing Saturday’s 30 k classic mass start. Nishikawa plans to, but de Nys figured it would be beneficial to have the 23-year-old Alberta World Cup Academy skier experience a World Championships relay as she could be on their Olympic team next year, he said.
“We’re trying to look at her gaining some momentum and strength,” de Nys said.
Two and a half minutes back from the leader, Nishikawa started her skate leg in 11th, 3.4 seconds ahead of Ukraine’s Maryna Antsybor. Karolina Grohova of the Czech Republic made up 13 seconds to catch Nishikawa on the first lap, and the Canadians floated between 12th and 13th before Nishikawa dropped Grohova for good and ending up 12th.
Without a final leg, the team’s standing didn’t hold much weight, but the Canadians knew it was a good sign.
“We just tried to stay in contact with the lead group as long as possible,” de Nys said. “When you’re skiing on your own, your mind tends to wander. … We have some work to do next year, but we’re gonna put the work boots on and get ’er done.”
Jones said it was a positive endnote after she and Gaiazova failed to advance out of the semifinals in Sunday’s freestyle team sprint and placed 13th overall.
“I felt a little bit better than I did in the team sprint so that’s really all I was after,” she said. “All in all, I think the first three legs of our relays went well. We don’t have a great history with the women’s relays in Canada, so who knows what would’ve placed with an anchor.
“We didn’t have super high expectations going in, but I’d say we did quite well all things considered,” Jones added. “It’s definitely a step up from Oslo two years ago [where their 4 x 5 k relay was 14th] so everyone’s making gains.”
“I just wanted to go out there and push my hardest,” Nishikawa wrote in an email. “I felt better on my second lap, but 5km hurts a lot! It was so much fun and such a great experience. Hopefully next year we can have a full team!”