It wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that this is the busiest time of year to be a North American ski fan. Not only did the Tour de Ski feature race after race, day after day, extending far beyond the weekends, but domestic racing was also heating up: in Utah, U.S. National Championships crowned winners and determined the World Junior Championship and U18 teams. In Thunder Bay, Canada selected those same teams at some of the biggest NorAms of the season. Plus, the nordic combined and biathlon World Cups returned from a holiday break, and U.S. relay teams found success in each.
So it was probably easy to miss some of the inspiring performances taking place on both sides of the Atlantic. Here’s a quick rundown, followed by links to all of our reporting, multimedia, and race results.
The Tour de Ski went to Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk, surprising nobody. Kikkan Randall of the U.S. made her presence felt in the skate sprint in Val Mustair, Switzerland, but from then on it was all Kowalczyk, who stayed alive in the skate pursuit, then won both the classic prologue and mass start before savoring her lead all the way to the top of the Alpe Cermis. Try as she might, Therese Johaug couldn’t catch Kowalczyk, starting too far back thanks to a blown wax job in the previous day’s mass start. Norwegian teammate Kristin Størmer Steira hung in for third. Besides Randall’s win, U.S. highlights came from Liz Stephen, who had the second-fastest time on the final climb.
Unlike the women’s race, the men crowned a new champion in Alexander Legkov, who became the first Russian to win the Tour. He had more trials and tribulations than Kowalczyk, and the distinction of winning the Tour without actually claiming victory in any single stage. Norway’s Finn Hagen Krogh took the skate sprint ahead of Frederico Pellegrino of Italy and Canada’s Lenny Valjas, who picked up his country’s first podium of the year (and he wasn’t done yet). Petter Northug prevailed in a tactical 35 k pursuit, then Alexei Poltoranin of Kazakhstan took two wins in a row in the classic prologue and the mass start. In the latter, Valjas and Alex Harvey finished in second and third. But on the last day it was all Legkov, who took off up the Alpe Cermis and couldn’t be caught. Northug went home emptyhanded again; Ivan Babikov of Canada had the second-fastest climb time.
Russians continued their success on the biathlon circuit, winning the men’s relay and then placing Dmitry Malyshko and Evgeniy Garanichev 1-2 in both the sprint and the pursuit in Oberhof, Germany. Olga Zaitseva improved the team’s mood even further by winning the women’s pursuit. Ukraine won the women’s relay and Miriam Gossner the women’s sprint. There were few notable North American performances in the individual races, but the U.S. tied its best-ever relay finish by placing fifth in the men’s relay.
The nordic combined crew did even better, taking bronze in their own relay in Schonach, Germany. Just like the biathletes, though, they were unable to continue that success in the individual races, with Bryan Fletcher leading the U.S. in 34th in the normal hill competition.
In Thunder Bay, the most successful athletes were siblings Graham and Emily Nishikawa, who each won their respective skiathlons. After Alysson Marshall won the women’s sprint qualifier, she was beaten to the line in the final by Andrea Dupont. Phil Widmer had an easier ride to victory, winning both the qualifier and the final. In the 10/15 k skate races, Emily Nishikawa again skied to a sizeable win, while Michael Somppi took his first victory of the weekend in the men’s division.
Finally, at U.S. Nationals Torin Koos not only found redemption by winning the classic sprint, the same event from which he was disqualified last year, but also took the 30 k classic. In between, Erik Bjornsen won the 15 k skate. For the women, the lone U.S. Ski Team member present was Sadie Bjornsen, and despite showing remarkable consistency and finishing on the podium in every race, she didn’t pick up a win until her third try, in the 20 k classic. Before that, Jennie Bender completed a remarkable recovery from illness to win the classic sprint and Rosie Brennan took the 10 k skate title on home turf. Whew!
FIS Tour de Ski – overall results
FIS Nordic Combined World Cup, Schonach, Germany
Sunday normal hill: results
IBU World Cup Biathlon, Oberhof, Germany
NorAm & World Junior/U23 Trials, Thunder Bay, Ontario
U.S. National Championships, Soldier Hollow, Utah