2009-2010 Nations Cup Ranking: 3rd (7701 pts)
2010-2011 Nations Cup Ranking: 3rd (6199 pts)
Men: 2nd (4422 pts)
Women: 7th (1777 pts)
2011/2012 World Cup Team (Best Estimate)
What You May Have Missed Last Season
It was impressive just how good the Russian distance skiing men were in 2010-2011 – especially in the last kilometer of racing.
Alexander Legkov, Maxim Vylegzhanin, Ilia Chernousov, and Petr Sedov were all brilliant last season at various points, and all four finished in the top 20 in the World Cup Overall standings.
In particular, for the first few weeks of the season it looked like Legkov was going to run away with the Crystal Globe. He finished in the top 10 six times in the first three weekends of racing, including a devastating attack a long way from home in the final day of racing during the mini-tour in Kuusamo, Finland, where he left Marcus Hellner and Dario Cologna standing still.
And Legkov wasn’t alone in impressing the crowd with his finishing skills – Vylegzhanin did what most possible consider to be impossible, beating Petter Northug to the line at the end of the 30 k skate in La Clusaz, France.
Joining his more highly-decorated and recognized teammates in the elite group this season was Chernousov, who had his best World Cup season to date. The highlight of Chernousov’s season was his big win on home turf, where he did a fantastic job of reeling in and then dispatching Frenchman Jean-Marc Gaillaird in the 20 k pursuit in Rybinsk, Russia.
But despite having possibly the strongest team on paper, the Russians had the most devastating relay experience at World Championships in Oslo. After taking the tag in third place, just 20 seconds out of the lead, Legkov exploded spectacularly while skiing the third leg, giving up almost two minutes to the fastest leg time, and dropping the Russians back to seventh.
On the flip side, while the men were solid except for the World Championships blunder, the Russian women did not impress. For the size of the Russian program, and considering the fact that it’s headed by Elena Vlyabe, who is second on the all-time World Cup wins list (45, or one less than Marit Bjoergen), the Russian women were nothing to write home about.
Yulia Tchekaleva led the team with her best year on the World Cup to date, while Anastasia Dotsenko was a surprisingly effective sprinter, but just four women scored over one hundered points. The rest were mostly enthusiastic pack filler during the World Cup weekend in Rybinsk, Russia.
But the Russian women failed to win a World Cup outright all season – even in Rybinsk, where the odds are usually pretty good (just look at all those RUS nation tags on the results list).
Notably, the Russians had significant quantity – they had 29 men and 29 women score at least one World Cup point. While a lot of those were collected during one three-race weekend in Rybinsk, Russia, it’s still an impressive number.
What You Need To Know for This Season
Several strong Russian women are back on the circuit, ready to bang heads with the best in the world.
Irina Khazova has returned from a year-long break, where she had a baby, and has already put up an impressive second place result in the FIS race last weekend in a 10 k freesytle.
Natalia Matveeva has returned from a doping ban, and while the formerly speedy sprinter has her eyes set on the home Olympics in Sochi 2014, there is no guarantee she’ll get to go.
And it’s a good thing the Russian women are receiving reinforcements, as according to her FIS profile, Yulia Tchekaleva, the top female point producer from last season is injured and is currently not active.
As for the men, Yevgeny Dementiev, also fresh off a two-year doping ban will be allowed to compete for a spot on the national team. The 2006 Olympic gold and silver medalist will be competing against a deep men’s team, and is now 28 years old, but could conceivably be a factor.
The Russians are also strength training machines, cranking out all kinds of intense weight workouts, while wearing bullet-proof vests. And the lack of snow in Scandinavian isn’t a problem, as they have been working hard on synthetic skiing options.
Who You Should Watch
Holy smokes, the list could be endless, as Elena Soboleva, Konstantin Kuleev, Sergei Ustygov, and Gleb Retivykh all had top 10 finishes at World Junior Championships in Otepaa, Estonia last winter. The Russians always seem to have a home-run prospect in the pipeline, and last season FasterSkier picked break-out star Petr Sedov, who stormed to 20th in the World Cup Overall rankings.
However, this year FasterSkier is tipping Evgeniy Belov, which is a bit of a no-brainer.
The strong Russian was the only athlete to stay anywhere close to Canadian Alex Harvey in the Under-23 World Championship pursuit, scored 244 of his own World Cup points in just ten individual World Cup starts, was a member of three World Cup medal-winning 4×10 k relay teams, and to top it all off, is just 21 years old.