When Dasha Gaiazova started the 4 x 5 k relay at World Championships in Oslo on Thursday, she still had a hangover.
Was it from drinking? No.
“We went to bed on time,” Gaiazova told FasterSkier, promising that the women’s team had behaved themselves and not celebrated too hard.
But after her teammates Alex Harvey and Devon Kershaw won the men’s team sprint in thrilling fashion on Wednesday and got to stand atop the podium in the ceremony in downtown Oslo that night, Gaiazova was hung over emotionally.
“We, the girls, just went to the plaza to watch the awards and there was a lot of screaming and waving the flags,” she said. “It was very intense.”
But though her voice might have been hoarse from cheering and she said that “so much racing had taken its toll” – this was Gaiazova’s fourth race of the World Championships series – she still had form to turn in the tenth-fastest scramble leg in the relay.
“It was hard today,” she said. “It’s a team event and you have to represent- it was important for me to push hard no matter what just to make sure that the other girls have a better chance. The skis were great and the crowds were louder than ever.”
In fact, Gaiazova said that with so much encouragement from the 26,000 spectators, pacing was tough.
“It’s a lot of discipline and you have to remind yourself, don’t do a sprint of death on this hill. Don’t just turn on the jets. But when it gets really really hard, too, the crowd just pushes you on, and it’s fun.”
Gaiazova tagged off to Perianne Jones, who was also her partner in the team sprint yesterday. Jones skied the 13th-fastest second-lap time, and dropped two places to twelfth.
Next up was Chandra Crawford, who was battling some emotional issues of her own. Crawford, the 2006 Olympic sprint gold medalist, was left off of Canada’s sprint relay team the day before. While Crawford was handing the decision well, it had clearly been bittersweet for her to watch from the sidelines as her teammates skied to a stellar sixth-place finish.
“I would like to be in the top two girls in my country,” Crawford said after much thought. “But I feel grateful that we have more than two. That forces us to earn the opportunity to start at events like this. It makes our team faster to have to earn one of those two spots.”
While she said that sitting out yesterday’s race had no effect on her attitude coming into the relay today, something else did.
“What made me excited?” she asked. “Devon and Alex! It was such a feeling of shared accomplishment, of those two incredible buddies.”
Excitement or no, Crawford had her work cut out for her. After receiving the tag from Jones ahead of only one team, Kazakhstan, she skied the 13th-fastest third leg. It wasn’t enough to keep her from dropping into 14th place, last in the field.
Nevertheless, Crawford said that the experience was “incredible.”
“The crowds- even though I was kind of stuck in the battle for the basement, I felt like I was winning and I was just confused!” she exclaimed. “They were cheering for me like I was winning. When I started to push beyond my limits, I thought, the crowd will carry me. I’ll keep up this unreasonable pace and go for it.”
Canada’s anchor leg, Brooke Gosling, was unable to gain any places.
“We didn’t really have a chance,” she told FasterSkier. “But it was fun.”
While none of the Canadian women are favored in the 30 k skate on Saturday, they will be starting – which is somewhat of a surprise. Crawford, in particular, said that despite focusing almost entirely on sprinting, she had been planning to race the 30 k.
“Then during today’s race, I was thinking, oh my gosh, this is going to be hard,” she said. “But it’s Oslo, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. I have to just prepare myself emotionally and psychologically for suffering beyond my wildest dreams. But that’s the goal, and the reason to do it – to get the experience of a lifetime. I’m pretty into both those things.”
-Nathaniel Herz contributed reporting