Dasha Gaiazova turned in the best solo race of her career, finishing eighth in a cross-country world cup sprint race, Sunday (Jan. 23).
“I was so pumped I made it to the top 12. I knew I was skiing so well,” Gaiazova said.
Her push into the semis was a result of four years of work on her double poling. In the quarter finals, Gaiazova blew past four skiers in the final 150 metres thanks to her improved technique.
“I’ve been playing with pole length and tried to be more powerful and dynamic in my upper body… it was cool to see the progress.”
In the semis, she tried the same technique, sticking to the back of the pack until the end.
“I tried to follow the same strategy: stay in fifth and sixth, and then in the last 150 metres, give it my all. But this time the race was faster and I finished fourth in my heat. Sometimes that’s good enough to make the final, but unfortunately it wasn’t good enough on the day,” Gaiazova said.
Gaiazova has had good fortune in Estonia before. Last year, she finished 12th on the same course – which at the time was her best result on the World Cup circuit. The flat course in Estonia favours powerful pole planters, and the Banff racer took full advantage.
“I really like the course. It was exciting with all the good memories from the year before,” Gaiazova said.
She came back to Canada in December and January to train, and she credits that time for the strong result.
“I spent time training at home in Banff and Canmore and it was an awesome time,” she said.
She’ll repeat that formula for the next three weeks before flying back to Norway.
“I’ll be skiing in Lake Louise, on the Goat Creek trail and by Mount Shark, trying to get as much variety as possible,” Gaiazova said. “Everyone back home gives me so much support.”
She also had many up and coming cross-country skiers watching her, as the Canadians sent many first-time skiers to the race.
“Some were having their first world cup experiences. You realize Beckie Scott and Sara Renner were my role models, and now I have to be a role model for the next generation. You try and stay a little more professional,” she said.
The 27-year-old Banff skier won her first world cup medal in December, capturing bronze in the sprint relay with Chandra Crawford.
Crawford cracked the top 30 in Estonia to finish 27th. Alysson Marshall of Salmon Arm made her debut on the European World Cup circuit, finishing 33rd and just missing heat qualification. Heidi Widmer of Banff finished 50th.
On the men’s side, Len Valjas finished 31st, Jesse Cockney of Canmore finished 61st, Michael Somppi of Thunder Bay finished 66th and Graeme Killick of Fort McMurray was 69th.
The young racers impressed Gaiazova.
“Marshall will have a good run at the world juniors. Valjas is our brightest young hope with Alex Harvey. Kevin Sandau will be good in the distance races and Heidi Widmer is strong,” Gaiazova said.