2018 Winter Olympics (PyeongChang, South Korea): Classic Sprints
After winning the sprint qualifier by 0.39 seconds over defending gold medalist Maiken Caspersen Falla and then besting the Norwegian by 0.03 seconds in her semifinal, Sweden’s Stina Nilsson captured Olympic gold in a dominating performance in the classic sprint final, ultimately besting Falla by 3.03 seconds.
Falla had to fight to even keep silver, as Olympic Athlete of Russia Yulia Belorukova pushed the pace on the final uphill and came close to outsprinting Falla in the finishing straight. However, the 23-year-old Russian couldn’t quite sneak past and settled for bronze, 0.34 seconds behind Falla.
Her teammate Natalia Nepryaeva finished fourth (+9.14 in the final), Sweden’s Hanna Falk fifth (+11.16), and the United States’ Jessie Diggins sixth (+11.23).
Diggins’s teammate Sophie Caldwell finished unlucky number eight, and based on time was the last woman not to make the final after finishing a close fourth behind Nilsson, Falla, and Falk in her semifinal. Both semifinal heats were fast, with one lucky loser coming from each, and Caldwell was 0.18 seconds off that time.
Also for the United States, Sadie Bjornsen finished third in her quarterfinal heat, 2.46 seconds behind Belorukova and also behind Norway’s Heidi Weng. That put her 14th on the day.
In the men’s final, it was a fight to the final uphill when 21-year-old Norwegian phenom Johannes Høsflot Klæbo ran away from the field over the top of the climb and sailed to the finish to become the youngest ever gold medalist in cross-country skiing at the Olympics. Alexander Bolshunov of Russia had matched Klæbo for most of the race but ran out of steam at the top, allowing Italy’s Federico Pellegrino to catch onto his tails before the downhill. While Klæbo widened his lead, Bolshunov and Pellegrino battled to the finish line and Pellegrino ultimately won in a photo finish, securing silver (+1.34) while Bolshunov took bronze (+1.36).
Norway’s Pål Golberg finished fourth (+3.81 in the final) and Sweden’s Oskar Svensson fifth (+7.73). Top qualifier Ristomatti Hakola of Finland didn’t have it in the final, finishing sixth (+20.72).
Canada’s Len Valjas finished third in his semifinal, but well off the pace (3.98 seconds behind Hakola) and did not advance as a lucky loser to the final. That put him seventh overall, Canada’s best result in two Olympic cycles.
Both American men, Erik Bjornsen and Simi Hamilton, were eliminated in the quarterfinals. Hamilton’s quarterfinal was marred by a crash involving nearly the entire group, and he ended up fourth with a slow time as a result, and landed 20th on the day. Bjornsen finished fifth in his heat, 1.63 seconds behind Klæbo in one of the tightest quarterfinals of the day, good for 25th overall.
Norway has now won both men’s gold medals in cross-country skiing, while Sweden has swept the women’s gold medals.
2018 Winter Olympics (PyeongChang, South Korea): Cross-Country Skiing Men’s & Women’s Sprint Qualifiers
Sprint racing at the PyeongChang Olympics kicked off on Tuesday, with Sweden’s Stina Nilsson setting the pace in the women’s qualifier just 0.39 seconds ahead of defending Olympic champion Maiken Caspersen Falla of Norway.
The rest of the field couldn’t touch those two. Krista Parmakoski of Finland, the bronze medalist in the 30 k skiathlon, came closest, notching a time 3.56 seconds slower. Sweden’s Hanna Falk qualified fourth (+3.80), Slovenia’s Katja Visnar fifth (+6.50), Olympic Athlete of Russia Natalia Nepryaeva sixth (+6.91), American Jessie Diggins seventh (+7.02), Sweden’s Ida Ingemarsdotter eighth (+7.32), American Sadie Bjornsen ninth (+7.38), and Norway’s Heidi Weng tenth (+7.54).
For the United States, Sophie Caldwell also qualified for the quarterfinals in 12th position (+8.32). Ida Sargent, who recently had surgery on her thumb, did not, notching the 33rd-best time of the day – 17.06 seconds off the pace and 1.78 seconds out of the heats.
For Canada, Emily Nishikawa led the team in 34th, 2.73 seconds out of quarterfinals. Dahria Beatty finished 42nd (+21.03) and Cendrine Browne 51st (+25.56).
CU student Petra Hyncicova of the Czech Republic finished 45th (+23.29). APU’s Jessica Yeaton, racing for Australia, finished 48th (+24.27), and Aussie teammate Casey Wright (University of Alaska Anchorage) 63rd (+41.06). Canada-based Mathilde Petitjean of Togo finished 59th (+37.19).
In the men’s sprint qualifier, Ristomatti Hakola of Finland turned heads by posting a time that last year’s Sprint Cup champion Johannes Høsflot Klæbo of Norway could not beat. The Norwegian posted a time 0.19 seconds slower than the Finn.
The men’s field was much closer than the women’s, with just 9.51 seconds separating the top 30 finishers who would move on to the quarterfinals. The third qualifier was young Olympic Athlete of Russia Alexander Bolshunov (+1.66), with Italy’s Maicol Rastelli a surprise fourth-place finisher (+2.78). Sweden’s Teodor Peterson qualified fifth (+3.01), Olympic Athlete of Russia Alexander Panzhinsky sixth (+3.09), Sweden’s Oskar Svensson and Viktor Thorn seventh (+3.48) and eighth (+3.65), and Italy’s Federico Pellegrino ninth +4.64. Calle Halfvarsson notched the tenth-best time (+4.73) and gave Sweden four qualifiers in the top ten, while Klæbo was the lone Norwegian in the top ten.
For the United States, Simi Hamilton and Erik Bjornsen made the quarterfinals, qualifying in 19th (+7.59) and 29th (+9.15) respectively. Bjornsen actually tied for 29th with France’s Richard Jouve, making him the last man to make the cut, so to speak. Canada’s Len Valjas will be the lone representative of his country in either the men’s or women’s heats after qualifying 26th (+8.57).
Alex Harvey just missed the quarterfinals in a tie for 32nd (+9.41), with Canadian teammate Jesse Cockney close behind in 35th (+10.00). Russell Kennedy rounded out the Canadian team in 54th (+14.83).
For the U.S., Andy Newell was also on the outside looking in, placing 37th in the qualifier (+10.82). So was Logan Hanneman in 42nd (+12.20).