FIS Cross Country World Cup (Lahti, Finland): Men’s & women’s freestyle sprints
The defending world championships from the 2017 freestyle sprint prevailed again in Lahti on Saturday, with Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla winning the women’s 1.4-kilometer freestyle sprint final and Italy’s Federico Pellegrino coming out on top in the men’s 1.6 k final at last year’s World Championships venue.
Falla’s rise to the final started with her qualifying in 12th, 7.96 seconds off the fastest qualifying time set by Sweden’s Hanna Falk in 2:54.72. Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva qualified second (+0.63) and Finland’s Krista Pärmäkoski third (+3.62), just ahead of Germany’s Victoria Carl in fourth (+3.88) and American Sadie Bjornsen in fourth (+3.88). Four American women qualified for the heats, with Sophie Caldwell in 17th, Ida Sargent in 21st and Rosie Brennan in 29th.
Falla went on to place second in the first quarterfinal, 0.71 seconds behind Sweden’s Stina Nilsson in first. According to the race jury’s ruling, Carl obstructed Pärmäkoski coming out of the last downhill before they entered the finishing straight and both crashed out of contention, with Pärmäkoski finishing fifth in the heat (+12.11) and Carl sixth (+49.5). Carl was relegated to last (30th place) for the obstruction.
Falla then won the first semifinal by just 0.04 seconds over Nilsson in second. The two other Swedes in that heat, Falk and Ida Ingemarsdotter, advanced to the final as well as lucky losers with fast-enough times.
In the final, Falla found herself at the front of the pack early then held her position to the finish, crossing the line in 2:54.83 and beating Nilsson by 0.36 seconds. Sweden had two on the podium with Falk in third (+0.78), Germany’s Sandra Ringwald placed fourth (+0.88), Ingemarsdotter was fifth (+1.83), and Switzerland’s Laurien van der Graaff placed sixth (+3.02).
Caldwell was the lone American woman to make it past the quarterfinals, as she placed second in her quarterfinal, 0.25 seconds behind Ringwald in first, then fourth in the second semifinal, 1.46 seconds behind Ringwald, who also won that heat. Overall, Caldwell finished the day in eighth.
Bjornsen placed 17th overall after finishing fourth in her quarterfinal, 2.84 seconds behind Falk in first. Sargent had been second in her quarterfinal until the final tight lefthand corner into the finishing straight, where she slipped to sixth and ultimately finished sixth, 1.07 seconds behind Sweden’s Anna Dyvik in first. Overall, Sargent finished the day in 27th, and Brennan placed 29th overall after finishing sixth in her quarterfinal, 4.91 seconds behind Ingemarsdotter in first.
Two American men advanced to the heats as well, with Kevin Bolger of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) qualifying in 16th in his World Cup debut, 6.38 seconds behind Norway’s Johannes Høsflot Klæbo, who topped the qualifier in 2:59.06. Erik Bjornsen of the U.S. Ski Team qualified 29th, 8.29 seconds back.
Meanwhile, Pellegrino qualified for the heats in third (+1.9) behind France’s Baptiste Gros in second (+1.23).
There, Pellegrino won the first quarterfinal by 0.19 seconds over Klæbo, with the Norwegian visibly backing off before the finish — comfortable enough to automatically advance to the semifinals in second place. But Klæbo showed Pellegrino what he’s made of in the first semifinal and beat the Italian by nine-hundredths of a second.
Bolger also raced in that first semifinal after placing fourth in his quarterfinal, 0.73 seconds behind Russia’s Gleb Retivykh in first. Bolger’s time was good enough for one of two lucky loser spots in the semifinals, where he went on to finish sixth, 1.86 seconds after Klæbo. Overall Bolger finished the day in 11th.
Erik Bjornsen placed 20th on the day after finishing fourth in the first quarterfinal (with Pellegrino and Klæbo), 1.56 seconds out of first.
In the final, Klæbo set the tone, slowing the pace to almost a stop at one point, while he and Pellegrino stood side by side at the top of the course. On the way down, they accelerated, but Norway’s Sindre Bjørnestad Skar was the one who truly attacked. It might’ve been a bit too early, as Pellegrino caught him by the top of the final climb and took the lead on the following downhill into the stadium. Pellegrino held off his challengers, including Retivykh who came on strong out of the downhill, to take the win in 3:16.73, 0.77 seconds ahead of Retivykh in second and 0.9 seconds ahead of Klæbo in third. Skar settled for fourth (+1.3), Finland’s Ristomatti Hakola placed fifth (+1.44) and France’s Lucas Chanavat finished sixth (+7.55).
In the qualifier, Canada’s Dahria Beatty finished 34th, +13.39 and just 0.9 seconds from making the quarterfinals. She was the only Canadian woman competing.
American Kelsey Phinney (SVSEF) was also close to making the cut. In her first European World Cup, she placed 36th in the qualifier, +13.74. Caitlin Patterson and Kaitlynn Miller, both of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, placed 56th (+20.12) and 61st (+21.70).
Mathilde Petitjean of Togo, a primarily Quebec-based skier, finished in 59th (+20.80).
In the men’s qualifier, Logan Hanneman (APU) placed 49th (+11.45). Paddy Caldwell (U.S. Ski Team/SMS T2) finished 59th (+13.55), and APU’s Reese Hanneman and David Norris placed 61st (+14.33) and 67th (+19.27).
Julien Locke led Canada in 42nd place (+9.78), and Andy Shields finished 60th (+14.29).
IBU Youth World Championships (Otepää, Estonia): Junior women’s and men’s sprints
Poland’s Kamila Zuk won her second race in a row, taking gold in the junior women’s 7.5 k sprint after also winning the individual at World Junior Championships. Zuk had one penalty to two by second-place Marketa Davidova of the Czech Republic, who finished 26.0 seconds back. Bronze went to Myrtille Begue of France, who shot clean to finish 52 seconds back.
The sole U.S. starter, Chloe Levins followed up her sixth-place finish in the individual with seventh place in the sprint. Levins had a single penalty and finished +1:31.7.
For Canada, Megan Bankes was close behind Levins in ninth, with two penalties and +1:49.5. Teammate Nadia Moser was 21st, also with two penalties, +2:46.2. Emily Dickson finished 36th, +3:50.5 with two penalties, and Zoe Pekos just missed the pursuit cutoff in 66th (+6:22.4) with four missed shots.
In the junior men’s 10 k sprint, Vasilii Tomshin of Russia took the gold with perfect shooting. France’s Martin Perillat Bottonet was second, less than a penalty-loop’s worth of time back at 20.5 seconds – and he did have one penalty. Norway’s Sverre Dahlen Aspenes took bronze (+29.4) with two missed shots.
Trevor Kiers led Canada in 16th, a breakthrough result; his previous World Juniors best was 39th in the pursuit last season. Kiers missed two shots, both in prone, and finished 1:34.9 behind the time set by Tomshin.
Adam Runnalls placed 26th for Canada (+2:08.3) with three missed shots. Teo Sanchez also qualified for the pursuit by placing 53rd (+3:19.2) with one penalty, and Angus Tweedie was left on the outside looking in with 69th place (+4:41.3) with three missed shots.
Cody Johnson led the Americans in 37th, with clean shooting, 2:31.1 back from Tomshin’s time. Tim Cunningham was the next finisher in 71st (+5:13.5) with seven missed shots, followed by Jacob Pearson in 79th (+6:24.2) with two penalties and Cam Christiansen in 86th (+7:52.5) with three penalties.