FIS Nordic World Championships (Lahti, Finland): Nordic Combined individual normal hill/10 k
Germany, Germany, Germany, Germany. That’s how the results read after the first nordic combined competition of the 2017 Nordic World Championships on Friday in Lahti, Finland, with Germany not only sweeping the podium but the top four of the men’s individual normal hill/10-kilometer Gundersen start.
Johannes Rydzek notched his second individual gold medal in the last two championships (after winning the normal hill/10 k in 2015 in Falun, Sweden), with a 14.9-second victory over his teammate and four-time defending overall World Cup champion Eric Frenzel. Björn Kircheisen completed the all-German podium in third (+30.0), holding off teammate Fabian Rießle by 2.2 seconds for bronze.
The 25-year-old Rydzek, who’s already won eight individual World Cup competitions this season, jumped to second on Friday and started the 10 k race 14 seconds behind Frenzel, the leader after the jump.
Rydzek overtook Frenzel for the win and 33-year-old Kircheisen moved up from eighth after the jump to third at the finish. Rießle held off Japan’s Akito Watabe by 0.1 seconds in a photo finish for fourth.
“Incredible. An incredibly beautiful day,” Rydzek told German broadcaster ZDF after. “Thanks to everyone who supported me so much throughout the last years so that this became possible now. Thanks also to my teammates, who I think all did a cool job today. All three guys and the whole surrounding team. And as for the race, I felt strong, I knew the slow-and-difficult course suits me well. And that I was able to conduct the race from in front … incredible. Just craziness.”
“I noticed that Johannes was just strong on the course today,” Frenzel, 28, told ZDF. “Actually we already noticed that at the World Cup in January here, that he is really moving well here. I, for my part, gave everything I had, and can only congratulate him for the strong competition he made today. He won deservedly. And I am also satisfied with my race.”
Bryan Fletcher led the Americans in 14th (+47.4) after crashing out of contention in the final 200 meters of the race. He had been in contention for a medal, skiing in a pack with Kircheisen, Rießle and Watabe, among others, all fighting for bronze. Fletcher fell on the final corner to ultimately miss the podium by 17.4 seconds. He jumped to 16th and started the ski race 56 seconds out of first.
“I knew it was going to be a hard cross-country race because it was so tight and pack racing is always so difficult,” Fletcher said, according to a U.S. Ski Team press release. “You’re not only fighting for position, but anything can happen. That’s exactly what happened to me today. I did really well in the pack and when I thought I had it locked up, I let my guard down and slipped out on a corner.”
His younger brother Taylor Fletcher posted the third-fastest cross-country time to race from 47th after the jump to 21st at the finish (+1:38.4). Adam Loomis placed 33rd (+2:23.6) after jumping to 39th, and Ben Berend finished 41st (+3:10.8) after posting the 22nd-best jump out of 55.
Canada’s Nathaniel Mah, of the Altius Nordic Ski Club in Calgary, jumped to 41st but did not finish the 10 k race.
The next nordic-combined event at Lahti Worlds, the 4 x 5 k team event, will be contested Sunday.
IBU Youth/Junior World Championships (Osrblie, Slovakia): Youth men’s and women’s sprints
[UPDATED] Italy’s Irene Lardschneider dominated the youth women’s 6-kilometer sprint competition on Friday at the International Biathlon Union (IBU) Youth World Championships in Osrblie, Slovakia, finishing 1:06.5 minutes faster than anyone else in 19:48.3 with 9-for-10 shooting. Lardschneider started 17th and led from start to finish despite one miss in her standing stage (0+1). She posted the fastest course time of 92 finishers for gold — her first medal in her first Youth World Championships. She previously raced at last year’s Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Lillehammer, Norway, where she earned a bronze medal with the mixed relay and placed 14th in the pursuit.
Also in the 2016 YOG pursuit, American Chloe Levins placed fourth for her best international finish. Racing at her third Youth Worlds on Friday, Levins finished 11th in the sprint to lead the North Americans. Like Lardschneider, Levins cleaned prone and missed one in standing (0+1) to finish 1:39.7 back from the win. For Levins, it was her second top 15 in as many races at these championships, after placing 14th in the youth women’s 10 k individual on Wednesday.
Sharing the podium with Lardschneider, Austria’s Anna Gandler placed second (+1:06.5) with one penalty (0+1), and Italy had two on the podium with Samuela Comola in third (+1:18.1). Comola was one of two women to clean the two-stage race; the other being Finland’s Maija Keränen in 13th (+1:40.9).
Shilo Rousseau led Canada in 45th (+4:08.0) with three penalties (0+3). Frédérique Pérusse finished 73rd (+5:48.2) with four misses (1+3), Anna Sellers was 82nd (+6:47.2) with six penalties (4+2), and Elise Sauve was 86th (+7:41.7) with six misses (3+3) as well.
For the U.S., Grace Gilliland placed 55th (+4:35.2) with four misses (1+3), Amanda Kautzer was 59th (+4:42.7) with six penalties (3+3) and Helen Wilson 67th (+5:10.0) with four misses (2+2).
In the youth men’s 7.5 k sprint, France’s Emilien Claude put down the fastest course time to over two penalties for the win, besting Ukraine’s Serhiy Telen who started ahead of him, by 25.2 seconds.
Claude missed one shot in each stage (1+1) and finished in 20:18.3, bumping Telen to second where he would remain after shooting one penalty (0+1). Norway’s Sivert Guttorm Bakken reached the podium in third (+44.6) despite two misses (1+1) and for the second-straight race, Italy’s Cedric Christille narrowly missed a medal in fourth (+52.0) after two standing penalties (0+2).
Coming off a gold medal in the youth men’s 12.5 k individual, Canada’s Leo Grandbois finished 14th (+1:52.9) on Friday to lead the North Americans. He had to ski three penalty loops (1+2) and posted the 10th-fastest course time of 99 finishers.
Also for Canada, Adam Runnalls placed 32nd (+2:46.8) despite five misses (3+2), Robert Kreitz was 84th (+5:37.2) with five penalties (1+4) as well, and Thomas Hulsman 87th (+5:58.6) with six misses (3+3).
For the U.S., Vasek Cervenka finished 49th (+3:37.1) with six penalties (4+2), Alex Kilby was 69th (+4:47.4) with three misses (1+2), Jacob Pearson 76th (+5:07.1) with five penalties (2+3), and Camren Nielsen 82nd (+5:18.8) with five misses as well (3+2).
Youth/Junior World Championships continue Saturday with the junior men’s and women’s sprints.