Today's classic World Cup sprint competitions in Cogne were
completely dominated by Norwegian skiers. Tor Arne Hetland won the men's
A-final, while the Bente Skari led a Norwegian sweep in the women's competition.
Hetland powered away from the strong Finn Lauri Pykkönen in the last
100 metres to add another sprint triumph to his merits. He has won all
the World Cup sprints so far this season, and took over the lead position
in the sprint World Cup as well as in the overall World Cup standings.
The other Norwegian in today's A-final, classic specialist Jens Arne Svartedal,
had an unfortunate fall around 300 metres from the finish. He managed
to get back on his feet quickly enough to capture third, behind Pykkönen
who posted the fastest time in the qualifying round. The big surprise
in the final, Germany's Dirk Klassen, ran out of steam early and finished
last. Nevertheless, it was an impressive performance by the hitherto unheralded
Of the other Norwegians who made it to the quarter finals, promising Jon
Kristian Dahl was only a few centimetres from qualifying for the semi
finals. Trond Iversen, who had the second fastest time in the prologue,
faded badly in the finishing straight of his quarter final and failed
In his first year in the senior ranks, Kristian Horntvedt proved that
he is a name for the future. Although he found himself in a bad position
entering the finishing straight, the two times World Junior champion came
very close qualifying for the semis.
Odd-Bjørn Hjelmset and Thomas Alsgaard did not qualify for the
quarter finals, and neither did a single Italian skier. The Italian skiers
appeared to be held back by hopeless skis.
In the women's section, Bente Skari was irresistable in the A-final. She
took the lead from the gun and stayed there until the finish. Teammate
Marit Bjørgen was the only finalist who attempted to keep up with
the best female skier in the world right now. But, 300 metres from the
finish, Bjørgen had to let Skari go, and concentrated on securing
the runner-up spot. Hilde G. Pedersens completed the Norwegian sweep in
third, while Germany's Manuela Henkel was a solitaire fourth.
Anita Moen and Marit Roaldset finished second and third respectively in
the B-final, which was won by Slovenia's Petra Majdic. Vibeke Skofterud
disappeared at the quarter final stage. Evi Sachenbacher and Claudia Kuenzel
from Germany did not even qualify for the quarter finals, a fate they
shared with Estonia's Kristina Smigun, who lost the lead in the overall
World Cup standings to Bente Skari.
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