One place better and they would’ve been in the finals. That was the takeaway for the Canadians on Sunday, with two women in the first of two semifinals at the World Cup 6 x 1.3-kilometer classic team sprint in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic.
Perianne Jones and Dasha Gaiazova combined for seventh in the heat, 26.83 seconds behind Finland’s winners Mona-Lisa Malvalehto and Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, who went on to place second to Norway in the final.
After the first 1.3 k leg, Jones tagged Gaiazova in eighth, and Gaiazova skied the second-fastest second lap to bring them to fourth. Jones dropped two spots to sixth, just six seconds behind Finland up front, and Gaiazova handed off in seventh after her second leg.
With two laps to go, Jones held their position in seventh, coming through the last exchange nearly 13 1/2 seconds behind the leaders. Gaiazova skied the last lap in seventh, finishing nearly 18 seconds behind France in sixth.
While France’s Aurore Jean and Celia Aymonier advanced in sixth with a fast-enough time, 9.05 seconds behind Finland, the Canadians did not.
“Dasha and I skied as hard as we could,” Jones wrote in an email. “It was hard to see that we were the next fastest team, but we’ve been on the other side of that line also. It’s a good reminder going into Sochi that every second really counts when only the top 2 move on, it can seem like you are totally out of the race, but it’s all dependent on how fast the other heat skis.”
Jones and Gaiazova ended up 13th overall, an improvement from three weeks earlier when they placed 16th in the classic team sprint in Asiago, Italy.
“I was happy, I skied much better than in Asiago. I think my form is coming, I just have to continue being patient,” Jones wrote. “These next few weeks are critical. We are staying here in Nove Mesto until Thursday, and then heading over to Poland. I’ll race the sprint on the weekend, and then we have our pre-games camp in Seiser Alm, [Italy].
“I’m really excited,” she added. “Although the results don’t necessarily reflect this, I’m getting stronger every week. There are signs that I’m getting back to where I want to be, a lot can change in 3 weeks! I just have to continue to be patient and respect how I’m feeling, but overall I feel good heading into the games!”
Gaiazova could not be reached for comment. The Canadian men did not race in Nove Mesto this past weekend.
— Seth Adams contributed reporting
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.