Teresa Stadlober (AUT) ignored the Russian script to take the junior women’s skiathlon (5 k classic/5 k skate) in a time of 27:13.0 in Liberec, Czech Republic. Stadlober kept a strong challenge by Nadezhda Shuniaeva (RUS) at bay to become Austria’s first junior world champion this week.
Stadlober, 19, began the classic leg strongly by delivering the second fastest split, which she would later leverage to salvage a sluggish ski change and the surging Nadezhda (RUS), whose skate split bettered Stadlober’s by 21.8 seconds.
Nevertheless, she showed her mettle and held on to surpass her silver medal in the 5 k freestyle.
“It is unreal, what has happened today,” Stadlober said. “After the silver medal I hoped to be in the top three. There were many good skiers out there today. I am just happy.”
Success is in her bloodline. Stadlober is the daughter of Alois Stadlober, a relay world champion from Ramsau in 1999.
Stadlober normally considers herself a classic specialist, commenting that “I thought I was better in classic but today I felt very good in the free technique.”
Unsurprisingly, a duo of strong Russian athletes made up the rest of the podium.
The Russian challenge began with the field-best classic split of Alisa Zhambalov (RUS), who narrowly edged out Stadlober’s (AUT) time by 1.2 seconds to take third overall.
After Zhambalov’s strong leg, her teammate Shuniaeva (RUS) took over in spectacular fashion. Trailing Zhambalov by 31 seconds, Shuniaeva unleased a vicious skate leg, beating her teammate by 35.2 seconds but ultimately running out of track to overtake Stadlober.
A bronze-medalist in Ezrum, Turkey last year, Shuniaeva was pleased, saying “Last year in Ezrum I was third in the skiathlon and I am happy I could improve my performance. I like the tracks in Liberec. It was a tough competition. I tried to follow Teresa in the last lap but she was too fast. I am happy for the silver medal.”
In third, Zhambalov (RUS) finished in a time of 27:23.9, and was equally jubilant to be a medal-winner.
“It is the biggest achievement so far in my career, my first individual medal. It feels great to be the third fastest in the world,” she said.
Seventy-one participants started the competition on Friday and four dropped out, the victims of cold conditions and a brutal course.
Slotting into fourth place behind Zhambalov (RUS) was another Russian woman, Anastasia Sedova, who managed the fastest ski exchange.
Linn Eriksen (NOR) recovered from a 31st place in the 5 k freestyle earlier in the week to finish 5th, a remarkable turnaround. Behind Linn was Julia Svan, daughter of Gunde Svan, who began the classic leg in a strong 3rd position before fading in the skate leg.
Julia Belger (GER) was seventh, Stina Nilsson (SWE) 8th, Katharina Hennig (GER) 9th, and Jonna Sundling (SWE) 10th.
Racing concludes Sunday with the relay competition.
Simen Hegstad Krueger (NOR) was two meters short of breaking the Russian podium hegemony. But try as he might, he couldn’t bridge that gap.
The Russian dominance continued on Friday in the junior men’s skiathlon (10 k classic/10 k skate) in Liberec, Czech Republic. Dmitry Rostovtsev (RUS) took the victory in a time of 47:40.2. It was Rostovtsev’s second gold medal of the championships.
“It is amazing to win another gold medal,” he said. “There were five of us skiing together. It was a tactical race in the free technique part. I tried to save some energy for the last.”
That he did, taking a comfortable margin over his teammate Artem Maltsev (RUS) of 3.9 seconds. Alexey Chervotkin (RUS) claimed the bronze medal in a time of 47:45.4, outkicking the surging Kreuger.
The Russians trio of Rostovtsev, Maltsev, and Chervotkin set a blistering pace from the gun, shredding the field down to a small group of five with Kreuger and Martin Weisheit (GER) hanging on.
“In the classic part I gave a few meters to the leading Russians,” Krueger explain. “But I was quickly up in the lead group for the skating leg.”
Krueger claimed the fastest skate split of the field, but the energy he expended making contact with the Russians after the classic leg left him empty. When the remaining four skiers — three Russians and Krueger — hit the final hill before the finish, he had nothing left.
“In the last long uphill on the last lap the Russian took a few meters out of me,” he said. “They (the Russians) were strong in the uphill. I wanted to close the gap but my body stiffened. In the finish it was all I could do to stay on my feet.”
After Krueger faded, it left the Russians to battle it out themselves. Maltsev, the silver medal winner, did his best to overtake Rostovtsev, saying “I wanted to win today but Dimitry was stronger in the last lap.”
Chervotkin, the bronze medalist, was simply happy with a podium.
“(A) bronze medal at the Junior World Championships is (the) biggest success of my career so far. It feels great. It has given me extra motivation for the next training,” he said.
Despite all the Russian success at these championships, they’re still hungry.
“It is great to have my teammates on the podium,” Rostovtsev said. “It is a great victory for Russia. We are looking forward to the relay and we want to win again.”
Simen Krueger of Norway was fourth, and Martin Weisheit (GER) finished fifth, both losing contact with the blistering pace of the Russians in the final uphill. Magne Haga (NOR), had the fastest equipment change of the field but finished sixth.
Antii Ojansivu (FIN) was seventh, Roman Tarasov (RUS) eighth, Clement Parisse ninth, and Moritz Madlener (GER) was tenth.