After months of training and anticipation, the nordic sports opened their seasons around the world this weekend with races around the world. Established veterans had several dominating performances, but there were new faces on the podiums as well, signaling that when World Cup racing starts next weekend, things could be pretty interesting.
In Bruksvallarna, Sweden, the Swedish, Canadian, and Slovenian national teams butted heads in a three-day race series. One of the biggest surprises was Swedish 23-year-old Emma Wiken taking a 2.4-second win over Charlotte Kalla on the first day of racing. But otherwise, Sweden’s top stars prevailed, with Daniel Richardsson, Johan Olsson, Teodor Peterson, and Ida Ingemarsdotter taking wins and Kalla returning to completely decimate the women’s field in the 10 k skate. Canada had strong performances as well, with Alex Harvey placing fourth in the 10 k classic, Ivan Babikov third in the 15 k skate, and Chandra Crawford second in the skate sprint. Katja Visnar of Slovenia also stepped on the podium in the sprint.
To the northeast in Muonio, Finland, even more national teams tried out their racing legs. Finland was joined by Russia, the United States, the Czech Republic, Poland, Kazakhstan, Japan, and Germany in a three-race series. Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland swept the women’s competitions, and was at her most dominant in a 29-second win in Saturday’s 5 k classic. For the men, Alexey Poltoranin of Kazakhstan took two victories before Matti Heikkinen of Finland bested the field in the 15 k skate. The U.S. had several top performances, headlined by Liz Stephen‘s second-place finish in the 10 k skate, just 4.6 seconds down on Kowalczyk; Holly Brooks and Jessie Diggins also made the top ten. But Kris Freeman also placed fourth in the men’s classic race, and Andy Newell and Ida Sargent both made the sprint finals.
Meanwhile, Beitostolen, Norway, was hosting the opening races for both skiers and biathletes. The women’s races were characterized by familiar Norwegian faces on top of the podium: Maiken Caspersen Falla in the sprint, Therese Johaug in the two distance races, and Tora Berger dominating the biathlon competitions. Perhaps the biggest surprise was Marit Bjørgen‘s two losses to Johaug, including a 50-second blowout in the classic race. Petter Northug won on Friday before falling in the sprint final, leaving Anders Glørsen to take the win, while Chris Andre Jespersen skied to a huge victory on Sunday. World Champion Martin Fourcade of France won Saturday’s biathlon sprint, before sitting out Sunday’s mass start and leaving the victory to Erlen Bjøntegaard.
Finally, the U.S. race season began in Fairbanks with the Tour de Ski Fairbanks, a three-day series culminating in pursuit races on Sunday. Designed to be a meet for University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Alaska Fairbanks skiers, the weekend consisted of prologues on Friday, classic mass starts on Saturday, which included sprint preems, and then skate pursuits on Sunday. Logan Hanneman and Raphaela Sieber, both from UAF, picked up the overall titles, although Viktor Braenmaark and Marine Dusser (UAA) had the fastest ski times on Sunday and Rebecca Konieczny (UAF) won the women’s prologue.
Elsewhere on the site, we previewed the upcoming race seasons – nordic combined, biathlon, the U.S. and Canadian World Cup squads – and conditions and potential start lists for on upcoming races at West Yellowstone and Canmore. Finally, we checked in with Canadian biathlete Nathan Smith as his team made their final World Cup preparations, interviewed APU coach Erik Flora, reviewed the history of Olympic anti-doping efforts, and examined why U.S. skiers no longer have free phone service in Europe.
Here’s a roundup of race reports and results.