Rising star of Canadian Cross-Country Skiing Len Valjas in interview
Len Valjas is the rising star of the Canadian Cross-Country skiing. 23 year-old skier from Toronto has Estonian/Swedish origins and excelled in two sports; mountain biking and Cross-Country Skiing.
Cross-Country skiing won for Len and he became a valuable member of Canada Cross-Country Team.
Q: Len, you have Estonian and Swedish origins. Could you explain that please?
Len Valjas: Three of my grandparents were born in Estonia, and my grandfather was born in Sweden. Estonian was my first and primary language growing up. I went to Estonian night school for 6 years.
Q: Who brought you to Cross-Country skiing?
L.V.: My parents were the ones that got me interested in the sport. Every weekend they would drive me an hour north of Toronto to Hardwood Ski and Bike so I could train with the local Jackrabbit club.
Q: Who was your favorite skier growing up?
L.V.: I have to say my favorite skier growing up was Andrus Veerpalu. I had the chance to meet him while visiting relatives in Estonia a few years back in 2006. I liked how humble he was and how he took time out of his busy day to meet with me, a total stranger, for over an hour.
Q: What is your favorite training venue in Canada?
L.V.: I would have to say Canmore Alberta. It is a world class facility and I have had good luck racing there in the past.
Q: I read you, Phil Widmer, Brent McMurtry and David Greer bought a van. Do you still have it?
L.V.: Haha, yes we still have the van. It's not a thing of beauty, but it gets us to training on time (most of the time).
Q: Your physical constitution is similar to Jesper Modin’s. Where do you see your advantage over shorter skiers?
L.V.: My stride length is much longer than most of the guys, and once I'm up to speed I can conserve more energy than the shorter skiers.
Q: You’ve well established as a sprint specialist. What is the secret for you to succeed in sprint?
L.V.: I think a big part of it is my height, at 6’6” I can use my height to my advantage. I also feel I have a very fast tempo for someone my size. With that combination, i can go fast over short distances.
Q: How important was last winter for you? Do you take it as a breakthrough in the Canadian squad and World’s elite?
L.V.: It was a big step for sure, but I feel like I still have a ways to go before I reach my potential as a xc skier.
Q: Once you said you were more popular in Estonia than in Canada. Is it still the case?
L.V.: This was the case over the past couple years, but now with my recent results in the past year and the added press coverage in Canada has balanced things out. I would say it's even now.
Q: In the 2012/13 season World Cup could make its stop in Quebec. How do you feel about that?
L.V.: I am really excited for this race, Quebec really loves sport and I know they will put on a great ski event.
Q: With successes of Devon, Alex, Chandra do you feel Cross-Country skiing has become more popular?
L.V.: For sure, we are continually getting more coverage in newspapers and on tv.
Q: You took part in the World Championships in Oslo. What kind of experience was it for you?
L.V.: It was an unbelievable experience for me. I am so glad I was able to take part in such an amazing event. To have that many crazy fans screaming at you was definitely the highlight of my ski career so far.
Q: Are there any other sports you enjoy outside of skiing?
L.V.: There are not too many sports that I DO NOT enjoy. I love to take part in as many different sports as I can. A few sports that I particularly enjoy are Mountain biking, windsurfing, and surfing.
Q: How is the atmosphere in the Canadian team? Have you been “initiated” to be accepted in the team (carrying bags, skis, etc.)?
L.V.: I was lucky, last year I spent so much time traveling on the World Cup with these guys, that it made my transition onto the World Cup Team seamless. There was no "initiation" for me to be accepted. I dodged that bullet.