Cross-Country Talk: Len Valjas (CAN)
FIS Cross-Country News caught up with Canada's rising star Lenny Valjas talking about recover from a knee surgery, plans for the upcoming winter and windsurfing in Hawaii.
Q: You just recently had knee surgery. Was this a planned procedure or the result of an injury this summer?
Lenny Valjas: My knee was bugging me for a while. The surgery wasn’t a result of an injury. I haven’t been able to do proper leg strength for a couple years now, and my leg has lost a lot of muscle so I had to try something. I was told this surgery would increase my performance significantly, who would say no to that. It’s a risky time to get this surgery but I’m hopeful that it will pay off for me.
Q: What is your recovery time and are you able to do any upper body activities to maintain your fitness?
L.V.: Recovery has been slow but on schedule, It’s now been 8 weeks with no real cardio. I have been keeping myself busy with lots of upper body strength and physio exercises. I am hoping to get back on roller skis soon and work on my fitness since its kind of a big year. ;) I’ve heard the Norwegians and Russians train really hard for skiing, I was thinking about giving it a try this year. Those Sochi courses are tough so I’m going to have to bring my fitness to the next level by February.
Q: Does this change any plans you had for the coming winter, especially the Olympics? Will we see you delay that start to your World Cup season?
L.V.: I don’t see this affecting me. If anything it should make me stronger. It has been really nice to take a break and let my body rest and recover. I am still planning on a beyond full recovery by the start of the World Cups.
Q: It was a tough year for the Canadian team last season. From a historical standpoint it was still a great success, but wasn't as strong as it has been the past few years. Despite this you had another strong season recording a handful of top tens and two podiums. What is the feeling within the team heading into the Sochi Olympic games?
L.V.: All of our guys are fired up for this season. Last season was clearly not where we wanted to be as a team, but this year we have made some changes to training and recovery and went back to what we know works for us in the past.
Q: What are your goals for the games. You have had success in many competition formats. Are you focusing on any in particular?
L.V.: I have not made any goals for myself yet. I definitely am focusing on a couple races in particular. I really want to have good races in the 15km CL, Sprint, and the 4x10km Relay.
Q: This spring your spent 6 weeks in Hawaii windsurfing. Where did this passion come from and do you find it helps you unwind from a long winter competing in the Northern Hemisphere?
L.V.: I have always been a “waterman” at heart. Growing up in Ontario, I would spend my summers at the cottage playing in the water. It has always been my passion. There is nothing I look forward to more than getting to Maui after a long World Cup season. For the people that have visited me in Maui know that I am not there resting. There is no shortage of fun things to do there, and I always pack my day with fun activities. I have a storage locker with 9 surfboards and windsurfers and every other water toy imaginable ready to share with friends. It is great mental rest for me, I never think about skiing while I am there.
Q: Looking again to the Olympics is the men's 4x10km relay a focus for the team? With Devon Kershaw, Alex Harvey, Ivan Babikov and yourself - all of whom have recorded World Cup podiums - do you consider yourselves contenders for a medal?
L.V.: All I want is for all of us to have great races that day. I know we have one of the strongest teams in the world, so of course I consider us contenders. There are many countries that have strong teams as well, so we just have to fight hard and ski like we have proven we can.