Sunday, March 20, 2005 - Perspective
The makings of a great Canadian

- By: Sara Renner

A relay team is comprised of four women. As perfect as the 2002 Olympics were, there was something missing. We had secret aspirations for a medal in a relay. With both Fortier sister‚s retired and a relay at these years World Championships in Val de Femme, there is a spot that needs to be filled. The outcome of the final selection races is uncertain but it is guaranteed to be a tough battle between the developing women.

For the last two years, 19 year old Dasha Gaiazova trained with the Canadian Junior Ski Team. She qualified for the 2002 World Junior Championships but was unable to represent Canada because she was a landed immigrant. Gaiazova grew up in a small town 120km south of Moscow.

This September, in an emotional ceremony, she swore to fulfill her duties as a Canadian Citizen, to bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and received her favorite little blue passport. Her goals are to race fast at the World Junior Championships in Sweden and at the Canadian Winter Games in New Brunswick. Gaiazova has already won a gold medal at the Canadian Senior Championships and is now eligible and likely to challenge her fellow Canadian teammates for a position on the senior relay team. She knows that nothing comes easily. "There are many other very good girls and they all are going to try for that spot".

Dasha said it would be impossible to describe all of the reasons why her family moved to Canada.

"My brother would have to serve in the military [in Russia] and probably end up shooting people in Chechnya. There were no possibilities to save for retirement and no guarantee that your money in the bank [would] be there in a couple of days. My parents wanted to have a good future, for themselves and for my brother and me."

Her hometown had excellent music, gymnastics and Nordic ski programs. Gaiazova started with playing the guitar, learned how to do cartwheels and when she was 12 she found her true love in cross country skiing. She was quick to realized that the faster she skied the more places she went for training and, more importantly, without her parents.

"In one training camp, when I was 14, we got paid $ 0.5 US/day for 12 days! For the kids it was a huge motivation to train hard and to actually think more seriously about skiing."

In Russia sports are more than a hobby. The Russian Ski Federation invests heavily in development of cross country skiing. Each village has a ski club and the Ski Federation provides equipment for the kids.

"It was not the topnotch equipment, but every child regardless if his parents could or could not afford to buy their child a personal pair of skis, could ski with the skis provided by the club. All the coaching [and training camps] were free too."

Gaiazova is a part time student at McGill University and has learned to speak fluent French and English. She feels like she belongs in Canada. The Junior Team has always welcomed and appreciated her for sharing her culture and her strong will. When she skis fast she will be welcomed on the Senior Team, too.

Dasha Gaiazova, the new Canadian.

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