FIS Cross Country World Cup Finals (Falun, Sweden): Freestyle sprints
In the last sprint of the season and the first race of the three-day World Cup Finals in Falun, Sweden’s Hanna Falk and Norway’s Johannes Høsflot Klæbo won their respective 1.4-kilometer freestyle sprint finals, while Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla and Klæbo claimed the season-long Sprint Crystal Globes and Sophie Caldwell of the U.S. placed third in the Sprint World Cup.
Falk started Friday by topping the women’s qualifier on home turf in 2:59.88 minutes, 1.65 seconds ahead of American Jessie Diggins, who qualified in second. Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva qualified third (+2.73), while American Sadie Bjornsen raced to the fourth-fastest qualifying time (+2.96), ahead of Norway’s Marit Bjørgen in fifth (+3.72).
Falk then won the first quarterfinal and first semifinal before taking control and dusting the field in the women’s final. She essentially led the final from start to finish, but slowed her pace and the five women behind her as she ascended the last climb. As she reached the 180-degree turn at the top, Falk launched into high gear, leaving the rest of the field chasing. Bjørgen was closest to her in second, but still several meters back, as they descended down into the stadium, and Falk skated away from her pursuers for her fourth-career World Cup win (and first victory in Falun) in 3:08.25. Sweden’s 23-year-old Jonna Sundling came on strong in the finishing straight for her first World Cup podium in second (+0.53), Bjørgen took third, and Sweden had three in the top four with Anna Dyvik in fourth (+1.72).
Norway’s Silje Øyre Slind finished fifth (+4.3), and Caldwell, who had qualified for the heats in 16th then won her quarterfinal and advanced in third in the second semifinal, placed sixth overall (+6.99).
Four American women posted top-20 qualifying times, with Kikkan Randall advancing as well in 18th. Diggins placed seventh overall after finishing third in the first semifinal, 0.42 seconds behind Falk in first and just 0.08 seconds behind Sundling, who advanced to the final in second.
Bjornsen was ninth on the day after placing fifth in that semifinal, 0.85 seconds out of first. Randall finished 15th overall after placing third in her quarterfinal, 3.14 seconds behind Diggins, who won that heat.
Also for the U.S, Ida Sargent missed the top 30 needed to qualify in 36th, as did Rosie Brennan in 49th, Caitlin Patterson in 63rd, Liz Stephen in 66th, Kaitlynn Miller in 69th, and Rosie Frankowski in 75th.
Canada’s Emily Nishikawa placed 40th, Dahria Beatty was 48th, Cendrine Browne 60th, and Zina Kocher 71st.
In the men’s race, Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov qualified first in 2:36.23, 0.46 seconds ahead of Klæbo in second. Klæbo then won the first quarterfinal, first semifinal, and you guessed it, the final as well, backing off before crossing the finish line for the last time in 2:37.03.
Italy’s Federico Pellegrino powered past France’s Lucas Chanavat in the finishing stretch of the final to claim second, 0.39 seconds behind Klæbo. Chanavat completed the podium in third (+1.76), Finland’s Ristomatti Hakola finished fourth (+3.26), and Sweden’s Oskar Svensson and Teodor Peterson placed fifth (+3.88) and sixth (+6.17), respectively.
Two American men qualified for the heats, with Simi Hamilton advancing in 13th and Kevin Bolger in 29th. Hamilton went on to place 14th on the day after finishing third in the first quarterfinal, 0.61 seconds behind Klæbo. In his second-career World Cup sprint, Bolger placed 30th overall after finishing sixth in his quarterfinal, 2.21 seconds behind Peterson in first.
In the overall Sprint World Cup, Klæbo took his second-straight title by a whopping 243 points over Pellegrino in second, while Falla won her third-straight Sprint Crystal Globe by 78 points over Sweden’s Stina Nilsson, who was out sick for Friday’s race. Nilsson joined her at the Sprint World Cup podium ceremony on Friday, as did Caldwell, who achieved her best overall sprint standing in third.
Falla placed eighth overall on the day after being eliminated in the semifinals (she finished fourth behind Falk, Sundling and Diggins, respectively).
For the U.S., Erik Bjornsen narrowly missed qualifying in 31st, Andy Newell placed 43rd, Paddy Caldwell was 60th, David Norris 84th, and Scott Patterson 87th.
For Canada, Julien Locke placed 32nd, Alex Harvey 34th, Devon Kershaw 74th, and Graeme Killick 81st.