2009-2010 Nations Cup Ranking: 13th (1033 pts)
2010-2011 Nations Cup Ranking: 14th (705 pts)
Men: 13th (532 pts)
Women: 16th (173 pts)
2011/2012 World Cup Team (Best Estimate)
What You May Have Missed Last Season
Kazakhstan took a 300 point nosedive in the overall points collection last year primarily due to a disastrous season of skiing by their female squad.
FasterSkier hates to pin it all on the women, but when neither Yelena Kolomina nor Svetlana Malakhova-Shishkina managed to record more than 50 points individually, and former strong sprinter Oxana Yatskaya laid an egg, failing to pick up a single point, we’ll call a spade a spade.
While the womens’ team disappointed in a big way, a lot of their slack was picked up by one man – Alexey Poltoranin.
Last year FasterSkier tipped ‘Polto’, as he is affectionately known around the office, as the man to watch. The young Kazakh did not disappoint, as bagging a silver medal in the sprint during the Kuusamo mini-tour, before falling to 15th in the overall Tour standings.
The following weekend in Davos, Switzerland, he kicked down the distance skiing door, winning the first World Cup of his career, a 15 k classic race ahead of distance experts Lukas Bauer and Alexander Legkov.
He tripled his number of World Cups points from the previous season for the best total of his career, and finished 34th overall. Is he the next Vladimir Smirnov? We here at FasterSkier aren’t willing to call it quite yet, but we’re convinced he has the skills to be pretty darn successful.
The Kazahks also hosted the little-known but apparently quite spectacular Asian Winter Games. While the fields were tiny compared to most ski races, it was due to a cap of two athletes per nation per race, rather than a pure lack of skiers.
What You Need To Know for This Season
The Kazakh men didn’t take on the Tour de Ski last winter, but in a year with no major Championships, if they choose to toe the line, there could be some big performances, especially from Poltoranin.
Polto showed last season that he has the skills to excel at Tour-style events, as his classic sprint speed is excellent, and he can distance ski with the best athletes on the World Cup – albeit only in classic.
If Poltoranin can cease to be a one-technique wonder, and get his skate legs under him (his skate results last year were 22nd, 39th, 64th, and 61st – ouch) then this season will cement him in his place among the weekly contenders for World Cup medals.
Smirnov was no slouch on skate skis, and wasn’t bad at the finish-line lunge either, although his lane tactics leave a little to be desired.
Who You Should Watch
Anastasia Slonova is a name worth keeping in the back of your mind. The 20 year-old ended her last year as a junior with some strong results, including sixth and fourth place finishes at World Junior Championships in Otepaa, Estonia. Oh, and just in case you’re looking down your nose at the sixth place, it came a scant five seconds ahead of highly touted American prospect Jessie Diggins in the 5 km freestyle.