FIS Cross Country World Cup (Kuusamo, Finland): 10/15 k freestyle pursuit
Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla took down the fiercest contender women’s cross-country skiing has ever seen, challenging Norway’s Marit Bjørgen on the final lap of the women’s 10-kilometer freestyle pursuit on Sunday then successfully holding her off to the finish.
Kalla entered the final day of the three-day Ruka Triple mini tour with a 2-second lead on Bjørgen out of the pursuit start. Bjørgen quickly caught her and led for much of the four-lap race — until the last lap. The two skied alone, at least 30 seconds ahead of their nearest chasers, with three other Norwegians, Ragnhild Haga, Ingvild Flugstad Østberg and Heidi Weng leading Austria’s Teresa Stadlober and Sweden’s Stina Nilsson at 8.6 k.
Before that marker, Kalla had already launched her attack and was 6 seconds ahead of Bjørgen with 1.4 k to go. The Swede continued to push the pace and extended her buffer to Bjørgen, entering the stadium alone and winning by 9.7 seconds. For Kalla, a 2015 World Champion in the 10 k freestyle, it was her first World Cup win since 2015.
Bjørgen took second and Haga outlasted her teammates for third place (+33.9). Weng finished fourth (+38.0) and Østberg fifth (+40.2), then Stadlober in sixth (+41.0) and Nilsson in seventh (+46.7). Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva led in the next chase group for eighth place (+1:01.6), followed by Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter in ninth (+1:10.1) and American Sadie Bjornsen in 10th (+1:18.0). Another U.S. Ski Team (USST) member Jessie Diggins was close behind in 12th (+1:35.7), about five seconds behind Norway’s Kathrine Rolsted Harsem in 11th (+1:30.3).
The USST had four in the top 30, with Kikkan Randall rising from 48th at the start to 25th (+2:41.1) and Rosie Brennan improving from 34th to 28th (+2:43.2).
While Haga’s time was the fastest of the day in 25:41.8 (compared to Kalla’s finishing time of 25:50.1, which was third-fastest of the day behind Weng in second), Randall’s time was eighth fastest, Diggins was 10th fastest and Bjornsen 11th fastest of 79 in the last women’s race of the opening World Cup weekend.
Also for the U.S., Ida Sargent finished out the tour in 38th, Sophie Caldwell was 39th, Liz Stephen 56th, Chelsea Holmes 60th, and Julia Kern 73rd.
Canada’s Emily Nishikawa placed 69th overall and Cendrine Browne moved up two places to finish 72nd, while Dahria Beatty was lapped.
Klæbo Sweeps Opening Weekend
In the men’s 15 k freestyle pursuit later in the day in Kuusamo, Johannes Høsflot Klæbo lost his 38-second buffer to the men’s field, but won the race after outlasting fellow Norwegian Martin Johnsrud Sundby, Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov and Canada’s Alex Harvey, respectively.
While Klæbo started the pursuit 38 seconds ahead of Bolshunov in second place, Sundb started 1:05 minutes back in 10th and Harvey was 1:23 behind in 12th.
Klæbo remained 32 seconds ahead of Bolshunov at 5 k, at which point Sundby led a chase group in third, followed closely by Sweden’s Calle Halfvarsson, Norway’s Didrik Tønseth, Kazakhstan’s Alexey Poltoranin, Russia’s Evgeniy Belov, Norway’s Emil Iversen, Finland’s Iivo Niskanen, and Norway’s Pal Golberg, respectively.
Harvey skied in the next group back with Sweden’s Marcus Hellner, Norway’s Hans Christer Holund, France’s Maurice Manificat, and Russia’s Alexey Chervotkin, all of which were in the top 15 at 5 k.
Over the next 2.5 k, Bolshunov cut his distance to Klæbo to 20 seconds, and at 7.5 k, Sundby was skiing alone another five seconds back in third.
Sundby caught Bolshunov and the two reeled in Klæbo over the next kilometer, catching him around 8.6 k, while 11 seconds back, Harvey led a chase group with Chervotkin, Niskanen, Holund, Poltoranin, and Manificat at 8.6 k.
Harvey lapped through the stadium at 10 k right behind Bolshunov in first, while Tønseth followed in third and Klaebo in fourth. Sundby remained in seventh, less than 2 seconds back.
At 12.5 k, 12 skiers remained in 2.6 seconds of the lead, but 1 k later, that number had dwindled to four within 3 seconds of first: Sundby, Harvey, Tønseth, and Klæbo. Bolshunov kept himself in contention just 3.8 seconds behind, and on the final climb, it became evident the race was between Klæbo, Sundby, Bolshunov, and Harvey. They finished in that order, with Harvey dropping off the pace in the finishing stretch.
Klæbo took the win in 36:23.2, just 0.4 seconds ahead of Sundby in second, while Bolshunov took third, 1 second behind Klæbo. Harvey was another 0.6 seconds back in fourth, and the Canadian’s time stood up as the fifth fastest of the day, behind Manificat in first (34:50.9). Manificat tied Holund for placed eighth overall (+8.2), behind Chervotkin in fifth (+6.2), Niskanen in sixth (+7.2), and Tønseth in seventh (+8.1).
Erik Bjornsen led the U.S. men overall in the tour in 26th (+1:43.6) for his third-straight race in the World Cup points. Also for the U.S. Ski Team, Paddy Caldwell raced to 19th for time of day (after starting 70th and finishing 51st in the pursuit).
Canada’s Devon Kershaw also landed in the points for the second-consecutive day in 29th (+1:47.8).
American Noah Hoffman finished the Ruka Triple in 39th (up from 45th at the start), Scott Patterson was 55th and Andy Newell 75th for the U.S.
Canada’s Len Valjas placed 44th overall, Graeme Killick 68th, Knute Johnsgaard 81st, and Julien Locke 83rd.
IBU Biathlon World Cup (Östersund, Sweden): Mixed & Single Mixed Relays
While France came in the favorites in the single mixed relay, starting a team of Martin Fourcade and Marie Dorin Habert, it was Austria who put on a master class and skied to a comfortable win today.
The Austrian duo of Lisa Theresa Hauser and Simon Eder used only two spare rounds over the course of 40 shots, the best shooting in the field by a wide margin. They led nearly the whole race and ended up with a 16.5-second victory over Germany’s Vanessa Hinz and Erik Lesser. The Germans used nine spare rounds to clean all their targets, but Lesser was aggressive on the skis and made up ground on the trails to finish 16.2 seconds clear of the rest of the field.
There, drama ensued on the last loop. Kazakhstan’s Maxim Braun came through a crash caused by Italy’s Thomas Bormolini, who was skiing in third place on the penultimate downhill and also took out Ukraine’s Dmytro Pidruchnyi. That allowed Braun, along with teammate Galina Vishnevskaya, to just barely hold on to third place. Their shooting – with five spare rounds between them, the second-best in the field – allowed this, their best relay showing ever.
Fourcade, who had left the range in seventh, came through the fray to put France into fourth, followed by Sweden (Linn Persson and Sebastian Samuelsson), then Ukraine (Pidruchnyi and Vita Semerenko) and Italy (Bormolini and Alexia Runggaldier).
Both the U.S. team of Emily Dreissigacker and Leif Nordgren and the Canadian team of Rosanna Crawford and Christian Gow were lapped. Crawford was in second position more than halfway through the race when she fell on a downhill, losing a large amount of time and affecting the functioning of her rifle once she reached the shooting range.
Later in the day, countries sent four-athlete teams out for regular mixed relays. Despite an imperfect start on the shooting range, the Norwegian team of Ingrid Tandrevold, Tiril Eckhoff, Johannes Thingnes Bø, and Emil Hegle Svendsen came away with a 5.3-second win over Italy’s Lisa Vitozzi, Dorothea Wierer, Dominik Windisch, and Lukas Hofer.
The German team of Franziska Preuss, Maren Hammerschmidt, Benedikt Doll, and Arnd Peiffer was third, +6.4, and Slovakia close behind in fourth.
Canada’s Emma Lunder, Julia Ransom, Scott Gow, and Brendan Green finished 15th, +3:28.0, and the U.S. team of Susan Dunklee, Clare Egan, Paul Schommer, and Sean Doherty 21st, +4:47.6.