Two Canadians finished in the points in the men’s World Cup 1.3-kilometer freestyle sprint on Sunday in Davos, Switzerland, though neither made it beyond the quarterfinals.
Lenny Valjas, of the Canadian World Cup Team, followed a strong performance last week in Davos — when he finished 13th overall — by finishing in 18th after qualifying in 12th. Meanwhile, national B-team member Jesse Cockney qualified in 23rd and finished 29th overall — his best individual World Cup result since taking ninth in a 2012 freestyle sprint in Canmore, Alberta.
Frederico Pellegrino of Italy won the final for his first-ever World Cup victory.
Valjas, who has been coming back from knee surgery for over a year, was pleased with his qualifying round. He explained in an email that he took advantage of the fast conditions, which were preferable to the icy conditions of Saturday’s 15 k freestyle.
He also felt strong during his quarterfinal heat, but fell just short of qualifying for the semifinals, finishing in the fourth, 0.56 seconds behind Sweden’s Calle Halfvarsson. He was behind the leaders for most of the heat and was not able to make a pass during the finishing surge.
“It’s hard to move through people on the tight course, and I wish it was a bit longer in the finishing straight,” the 26-year-old Valjas wrote.
Cockney was also happy with his qualifier.
“I’ve been skiing relaxed and smooth in qualifiers all year and it feels awesome to finally get into the heats again,” the 25-year-old Cockney wrote in an email.
However, Cockney ended up in the fastest quarterfinal heat, which was led by eventual third-place finisher Finn Hågen Krogh of Norway (2:16.37). Cockney finished sixth, 4.88 seconds behind Krogh.
“I wasn’t strong enough [to stay] with them at that speed so I ended up skiing the whole race in sixth place,” he wrote.
Canadian World Cup Coach Tor-Arne Hetland was pleased with the results, but disappointed that no one pushed through the quarterfinals.
“We had good races today from both of them [Valjas and Cockney], but when you’re in the heats, you always hope to get to the next level so that is a little bit disappointing,” he said on the phone. “When you’re starting in the heats you want to be in the final.”
But Hetland was optimistic about future races, especially based on Cockney’s performance, saying Cockney has been steadily improving and that he was happy to see him break the top 30.
As for Valjas, “he’s showing that he is back on his level and I think he will be improving in each week coming up,” Hetland said. After Sunday, Valjas stood 52nd in the World Cup standings.
“I’m happy with grabbing a few more points this weekend, and look forward to a small Christmas break and then racing the Tour de Ski,” Valjas said.
On the women’s side, the lone Canadian starter was Perianne Jones, who placed 39th in qualifiers and failed to make the heats. She was 7.53 seconds behind the qualifying leader and eventual winner, Marit Bjørgen (2:37.59).
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