The 2003-2004 World Cup season got underway in Dusseldorf, Germany on Saturday
with sprint races along the famous Rhine River.
The Swedes were very successful on the men's side, taking five of the top seven
spots and placing three men in the A final. Peter Larsson was the Swede who
came out on top, beating out 2003 50K World Champion Martin Koukal (Czech Republic)
who came in second. It was Larsson's first World Cup win. 2003 World Sprint
Champion Tobias Fredriksson (SWE) took 3rd and Bjoern Lind (SWE), the winner
of the preliminary heats, was fourth in the A final. Sweden's Mikael Oestberg
won the B final to place fifth. Norwegian Jens Arne Svartedal, who is a member
of the Norwegian National Team, but joined
the Sprint National Team for a camp in order to prepare for Dusseldorf,
was the top Norwegian in ninth place. Some big names, such as Tor Arne Hetland
(NOR) and Rene Sommerfeldt (GER) did not place in the top sixteen and missed
out on the elimination heats.
The only North American participant this weekend was US Biathlete Jay Hakkinen, who is in Germany for training and decided to take part in the sprints. He finished 73rd.
The biggest story on the women's side was the racers who were not there. Most
of the women expected to challenge for the overall World Cup title decided to
focus on training, rather than participate in the record-early World Cup start.
Kristin Smigun (EST), Julija Tchepalova (RUS), Beckie Scott (CAN), and Katerena
Neumannova (CZE) all skipped the race. German sensation Evi Sachenbacher, who
would have been one of the favorites racing in her home country, was sick and
did not attend.
Italian Gabriella Paruzzi beat out two Russians, Elena Sidko and Evgenia Hahina
for the first World Cup victory of the season. German biathlete Uschi Disl represented
the host country well making to the A final and fnishing fourth.