February 03, 2013 (Sochi, Russia) – A thrilling finish in the women’s 6×1.25km Classic Team Sprint race in Sochi on Sunday saw Canada’s Dasha Gaiazova start the final leg in 4th as she passed the USA’s Sadie Bjornsen who was in third and then chase down Russia’s Natalia Matveeva for the silver.
A photo-finish decided by a boot length gave the Canadian team of Gaiazova and Perianne Jones the bronze as Finland won gold and the US team of Bjornsen and Ida Sargent ended up 5th.
Beautiful conditions were the order of the day as the US team raced near the front for the most part while the Canadians were mid-field. On the next to final leg Sargent raced well to put Bjornsen in third behind race leader Anne Kylloenen (FIN) and Matveeva in second. But Jones also put in a strong last leg handing off to Gaiazova in 4th for the final kick.
Gaiazova caught and passed Bjornsen and was making gains on Matveeva as she knew the silver was in reach. In a final push to the line she and Matveeva lunged across in photo-finish that saw the Russians take the silver and Canada the bronze – the first WCup medal for the Canadian women this season. The same thing happened to Gaiazova at the Liberec individual sprint only this time she landed on the podium.
“It was a beautiful day and really fun out there. We had really good skis – I was on hairies and my skis were great. Peri did so well in her last loop and put me in contact with the four leaders and just went as hard as I could not wanting to finish fourth again. Once I saw that I was in third I said let’s go for it – let’s go for silver. It’s really cool to do this in Sochi – I’m so happy with our race and the course here is great,” said Gaiazova.
“I’ve done a lot of relays and I knew I had to save something for my last leg – it’s the most important one,” said Jones. “Justin [Wadsworth - Head Coach] was at the top of the hill yelling at me and that helped me push over the top. My first leg was not so great but we were able to adjust my skis and things were better… and then I just gave it everything I had to put Dasha in good position and she did a fabulous job to get us on the podium.”
The Americans had the fastest time overall in the semi final and skied well throughout the race looking like podium contenders but as the pace picked up near the end Bjornsen gave up a bit of ground and settled for 5th – all in all a great day for the North American women.
“It was a great day. Tough to be so close to the podium but we’re moving up and it was very exciting to post the fastest overall semifinal time,” said Sargent. ”I wanted to ski as close to the front as possible since it was a fast course for ladies and it’s easier to avoid crashes and tangles when you’re near the front. I felt good and was excited to see that I was able to make moves on the uphills.
“The last lap I felt really good so I tried to make up as much time as possible. I struggled to get past the Finnish girl going over the top of the hill so I wasn’t able to push as hard as I hoped there but that’s part of racing. We had good tags today and avoided all the falls. Sadie skied very strong and I had great skis in the final so a really good day,” added Sargent
The hard-earned medal now guarantees that all of Canada’s seven WCup skiers are in the prestigious red group – in the top-30 skiers in the overall rankings on the World Cup.
“One of our goals as a team was to get every national team member in the red group, and we are there now,” said Justin Wadsworth, head coach, Canadian Cross-Country Ski Team. “That is a huge accomplishment for our program to have every athlete in that group and we are very proud of that.”
Full results HERE.