Seeing Devon Kershaw on the podium is nothing new these days, and Alex Harvey is no stranger to the bright lights himself. But the Canadian Cross-Country Team showed something else this week in Drammen, Norway and that's depth. Len Valjas, who is in his third year with the national team, sprinted to a silver medal in the World Cup to earn his first career medal.
The six-foot-six, 23-year-old sprinter from Toronto accomplished the podium in one of the spiritual homes of Nordic skiing, up against a home team that has been more or less dominating the sport.
"I never would have thought I'd win a medal this early in my career, but to have the first medal come in Norway is really special," said Valjas. "This country has been really good to me over the last couple of years. I just wanted to get to the front and attack on the hills. I had great skis and was able to do that. I felt good all day."
Valjas had the lead until the final stretch, where Norway's Erik Brandsdal pulled up even and then edged Valjas at the finish line. Paal Goldberg of Norway was third.
Valjas shared the win with his teammates .
"Training with Alex and Devon has had a huge influence on me and me getting to the podium. Just watching how these guys train with such intensity is huge for me," he said.
Harvey and Kershaw were 16th and 23rd respectively on the day.
Valjas silver medal was the highlight so far, but it wasn't the only big moment for the team. Chandra Crawford, an Olympic gold medallist in freestyle sprint, posted her career-best in the women's classic sprint. Her teammate and sometimes racing partner Daria Gaiazova - who earned her first World Cup podium with Crawford in January - placed a career-best eighth.
"I was not expecting it to go that well," said Crawford. "I have been relentless on improving my classic skiing. My stride has opened up and is much longer. I am very happy, but more excited to see Lenny get on the podium today. It couldn't happen to a better guy and I'm so happy for our program."
The team is en route to Oslo for marathon distances - 50km for the men and 30km for the women - on Saturday.
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