RacingWorld CupRenner Leads North Americans in Finland

FasterSkier FasterSkierMarch 8, 2004

Canada’s Sara Renner was just 75 seconds off the gold-medal pace while finishing 23rd in a World Cup cross-country ski distance event on Sunday in Lahti, Finland.

The 27-year-old from Canmore, Alt., who is recognized more for her sprinting abilities, has been consistently placing in the top-25 in the distance disciplines this winter. Renner finished the 10-kilometre course with a time of 30 minutes 15.5 seconds.

“The field is so tight out here, and the difference between top-10, 15 and 20 is a matter of seconds. If you want to be on the podium, you have to be on fire all day,” said Renner, who is approaching the end of a gruelling stretch in Europe that has kept her away from home, and living out of a suitcase for nearly four months. “I always seem to start fast and then I try to hold on so I lost a few places at the end today. I'm getting really tired and can tell the end of the season is approaching.”

Renner was joined by her two Olympic teammates in Finland. Beckie Scott, of Vermilion, Alta., who narrowly missed the podium in Friday’s sprint event, struggled to a disappointing 26th place (30:20.8), while Milaine Theriault, of St. Quentin, N.B., finished 54th (31:53.5). Theriault is on the World Cup comeback trail this month after taking a year off to have a baby.

Rebecca Dussault (Gunnison, CO) was 53rd in the women's 10K classic.

Virpi Kuitunen, of Finland, won the women’s competition after posting the leading time at 28:59.4. Italy’s Gabriella Paruzzi, who has been among the frontrunners all season, was just one-one-hundredth of a second behind at 28:59.5, while Olga Savialova, of Russia, was third (29:08.5). Paruzzi strengthened her hold on the overall title with her strong showing. Her lead over Norwegian sprint sensation Marit Bjoergen increased to 120 points with two races left.

Norway’s Frode Estil won the men’s competition with a time of 38:12.0, while two Estonia teammates grabbed second and third. Jaak Mae took home the silver medal (38:27.8), while Andrus Veerpalu rounded out the top-three (38:32.0).

Rene Sommerfeldt became the first German to clinch the men's World Cup cross-country overall title, holding off Mathias Fredriksson of Sweden at the Lahti Ski Games on Sunday.

Sommerfeldt placed sixth in a 15K classic race, giving him 876 points with two races left. Fredriksson, last year's winner, had a chance to overtake the German but finished 21st, leaving him with 606 points.

“To take the title as the first German is sensational,” Sommerfeldt said.

Top U.S. result came from Kris Freeman (Andover, NH), who was 47th in the men's 15K race.

The young Canadian men’s team that has been experiencing the highs and lows of World Cup life since making their debuts in December continued their improvement amongst the world’s elite skiers. George Grey, of Rossland, B.C., led the Canadian foursome with a 44th-place finish in a field of 95 athletes. The 24-year-old Grey finished the 15-kilometre classic trek with a time of 39:59.4, with Chris Jeffries, 26, of Chelsea, Que., hot on his heels in 46th (39:59.6). Devon Kershaw, 22, of Sudbury, Ont. was 52nd (40:08.0), and Drew Goldsack, of Red Deer, Alta., was 77th (41:36.5).

Source: Cross Country Canada and AP article

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