Dasha Gaiazova was once again Canada’s lone star in today’s World Cup in Asiago, Italy. After qualifying in 28th in the classic sprint, she was the only Canadian to move on to the heats and ended her day in 14th. She was followed by Chandra Crawford in 45th and Perianne Jones in 54th.
Gaiazova, who was unavailable for comment, placed third in her quarterfinal, which was good enough to rocket her into the top 15, Canada’s best result in a World Cup sprint this year.
Crawford, who has struggled to find her stride this year, was pleased that she was able to improve on her World Cup results this year.
“I felt great heading into today and was really excited because when I really hit my stride on those perfectly waxed skis, classic racing is an absolutely amazing feeling,” she wrote in an email.
After this weekend she plans to head back to Canada and compete in domestic races, while training in Canmore, Alberta.
“With this heart, these lungs and my diamond-cut focus on the Sochi sprint, I could prepare anywhere and turn it into my advantage,” she wrote.
Jones, in her first World Cup race of the season, gave a strong performance despite some health issues that have prevented her from joining the team in Europe earlier this season.
On the men’s side, Devon Kershaw was 33rd, Len Valjas was 70th, and Jesse Cockney was 77th. Alex Harvey was disqualified after the jury ruled that he skated up one of the hills on the course.
Kershaw, who was 0.37 seconds out of the top 30, said he was happy to see some improvement in his racing despite failing to reach the heats. After feeling weary from the journey from Davos, he was excited and energized to have a course that suited him – it was both double pole friendly and long.
Even with the improvement Kershaw was still disappointed. “Today I was ‘almost’ in,” he wrote in an email. “[It was] bad in the fact that in a sprint if you aren’t in the top 30 you really didn’t ‘race’ the sprint competition.”
Harvey, who clocked the 13th fastest time of the day was surprised to hear of his disqualification. “Based on that video, it didn’t seem like much skating and much advantage was gained,” he wrote in an email.
Disqualification aside, Harvey felt good about his race and was “super happy” with his time.
Canadian Head Coach Justin Wadsworth, who was spending the holidays with family in Bend, Ore., said on the phone he pleased with the effort overall but acknowledged that the team needed to improve.
“At this point honestly, we’re on our plan, not that our plan is to be skiing like this,” he said. “But we try to keep the focus on later on. It was still a step in the right direction today.”
“It’s still a work in progress,” he added. “We’ve just got to keep trying.”
They’ll have a chance to continue their upward trend in tomorrow’s classic team sprint, where Gaiazova and Jones will pair up for the women’s race, and Harvey and Kershaw will ski for the men.
For the men it was an easy choice to put Harvey and Kershaw together. The pair won the World Championship team sprint in 2011 and they were fourth in the skate team sprint at 2013 World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
The decision for women’s team was harder, with Crawford and Jones vying for the second spot on the sprint team. In the end, however, Wadsworth believes that the combination of Jones and Gaiazova will work well. “We don’t know where Chandra is with her fitness and we know that Peri is trying to come back,” he said.
— Alex Matthews contributed reporting