Canadian Valjas takes bronze in cross-country sprint

Canadian Len Valjas captured a bronze medal in the men's sprint at the cross-country skiing World Cup finals Wednesday.
Len Valjas, right, celebrates with winner Eirik Brandsdal, centre, and second place Teodor Peterson during the FIS Cross-Country World Cup in Stockholm, Wednesday March 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Claudio Bresciani, Scanpix)

Canadian Len Valjas captured a bronze medal in the men's sprint at the cross-country skiing World Cup finals Wednesday.

It was the second straight trip to the podium for the 23-year-old Toronto native, who won a sprint silver last week in Norway.

Norway's Erik Brandsdal won the gold in two minutes 13.6 seconds. while Sweden's Teodor Peterson was second.

Valjas captured the final spot in the top-30 for the head-to-head heats after battling through a difficult qualifier.

He said he was shocked but happy with the result.

"I made a little mistake double-poling in qualifying, but I was lucky to squeak into 30th," he said. "I had to dig deep, but it made it pretty fun to be able to move from 30th to the podium today."

The six-foot-six Canadian used his size to his advantage on the course around Sweden's Royal Palace while following his strategy to stay with the group until the final climb.

"I think my size definitely helps with having a fast stride up the hills," said Valjas. "This course was similar to Drammen which I really like. In each heat, I was able to make my move up that final climb and it worked out."

Canada won 10 medals on the World Cup circuit this season.

Dario Cologna of Switzerland has already won the overall title.

Three-time Olympic champion Marit Bjoergen of Norway won the women's race, extending her lead in the World Cup standings over Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland.

Bjoergen finished in 2:29.8 seconds in the Old Town in central Stockholm, beating Julia Ivanova of Russia by 0.3 seconds. Maiken Caspersen Falla of Norway was third, 0.5 behind the winner.

Chandra Crawford of Canmore, Alta., was the top Canadian woman in 12th place.

Kowalczyk, the only skier still challenging Bjoergen for the overall title, missed out on the final after finishing her semifinal heat in fifth place. She lost ground when she slipped while turning.

"I am in incredibly good form right now, which I've showed in Drammen and Oslo, but a sprint is a sprint," said Bjoergen, referring to her two wins at home last week.

Bjoergen is 160 points ahead of Kowalczyk.

"I'm taking things day by day. We'll see on Sunday if I've made it," Bjoergen said.

The three last stages of the World Cup finals will be held from Friday to Sunday in Falun, Sweden.


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