Estonia – B+
If I was asked to describe Estonia in one word, it would be – geriatric (that’s a fancy word for old, just so you don’t have to reach for the dictionary). While the Estonians ended in 14th on the Nations Cup, with roughly 800 points (I say roughly because the last available data is for March 7th) they did so because the average age of their top point getters is about a million, or for the accurate type, 33.75.
Kristina Smigun-Vaehi (hereafter referred to as Smigun) made a comeback this season after taking the last 3 years off, and did so quite nicely. My main gripe with her season was her decision to make her last name unnecessarily long and therefore causing LiveBloggers and ski fans such as myself to either to ignore the second part of it when mentioning her, or bitch every time she came up, because of the stupid hyphen. I don’t blame the dude who married her – if I married a successful skier as Smigun, I would also want to stamp my name all over that shit. Therese Johaug-Jones, I think so. But back to skiing, Smigun romped to 259 WC points, or 32nd overall, surprising quite a few people with her heroics, including a silver medal at the Olympics, making tying her with none other than Andrus Veerpalu for most decorated Estonian Olympic athlete in history. Her backup on the World Cup came in the form of Kaija Udras and a couple of others, who basically accomplished nothing. Not terrible, but the Estonian women, aside from Smigun, underwhelmed.
On the men’s side, Andrus Veerpalu and Jaak Mae are still trucking. They scored 188 and 61 points respectively, which, considering the fact that they would be better suited to a nursing home, is pretty impressive. The disappointment came in the form of Aivar Rehmaa, who collected 244 points last year, yet only 35 this season. His Fantasy Skier owner (one Derek Hartman) was less than enthused. The surprise came from Kein Einaste (pronounced EN-ASS-TEE), who collected 63 sprints points, a whopping 60 more than last year. The main problem with Estonia, as many may have gathered, is the age. The B+ reflects the success of Smigun, as well as the rise of Einaste and the sheer determination of Veerpalu and Mae. Veerpalu embodied the season to me when I saw him on the start line of a sprint heat in the World Cup Final, and then promptly never saw him again. The old guard, while somewhat effective, is still old. Unfortunately for this former skiing powerhouse things are going to be tough next season.
Watch out for: Timo Simonlatser. I am convinced that Estonians have some sort of legislation forcing them to give their kids the most epic names. I chose Simonlatser instead of his equally epic-named teammates Kaspar Kokk and Algo Karp because he’s relatively young, has a few World Cup starts, and I have a soft spot for sprinters. Mostly because they can make big gains in a year, while distance guys have to be built up consistently season by season, so I look better picking sprinters.