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The World Cup turned its focus to the Norwegian city of Drammen today, where thousands of ski-crazy spectators packed in along the 1-kilometer man-made course to watch the fastest cross-country skiers in the world push eachother–sometimes literally–to top a tougher pace than ever.
With the qualification round completed, it was time to get down and dirty with the head-to-head elimination heats. With four skiers in a heat, only the top two would advance to the semifinals, and once there, only the top two in each semifinal would earn a spot in the A-final to fight for the overall win.
The first quarterfinal of the day simply featured Virpi Kuitunen skiing a whopping four seconds faster than she did in the qualifying round. Kuitunen easily advanced to the semifinals along with Norwegian Guro Stroem Solli.
Women's Quarterfinal 1:
1 1 Kuitunen Virpi FIN *15:30:00 2:36.0 0.0 Q
2 8 Solli Guro Stroem NOR *15:30:00 2:36.5 +0.5 Q
3 9 Vaelimaa Kirsi FIN *15:30:00 2:38.2 +2.2
4 16 Skofterud Vibeke W. NOR *15:30:00 2:40.1 +4.1
It was in quarterfinal two that the first of many “incidents” occurred. Slovenian Petra Majdic got tangled up with Madoka Natsumi of Japan and they both went down. This meant an easy ticket to the semis for Mona-Liisa Malvalehto of Finland and Ella Gjoemle of Norway.
Women's Quarterfinal 2:
1 5 Malvalehto Mona-Liisa FIN *15:35:00 2:42.5 0.0 Q
2 12 Gjoemle Ella NOR *15:35:00 2:47.8 +5.3 Q
3 4 Majdic Petra SLO *15:35:00 2:57.5 +15.0
4 13 Natsumi Madoka JPN *15:35:00 3:17.7 +35.2
Then it was time for Canadians Beckie Scott and Sara Renner to face off against the huge home favorite, World Champion, overall World Cup points leader, virtually-undefeated sprint queen: Marit Bjoergen. With Olympic and World Championship medals of their own however, the Canadians charged fearlessly to the front and almost succeeded in keeping Bjoergen out of the semis. Bjoergen came charging back in the final uphill finish to grab a qualifying spot just half a second in front of Renner, who would end up 11th overall.
Women's Quarterfinal 3:
1 10 Scott Beckie CAN *15:40:00 2:36.0 0.0 Q
2 2 Bjoergen Marit NOR *15:40:00 2:36.3 +0.3 Q
3 7 Renner Sara CAN *15:40:00 2:36.8 +0.8
4 15 Peraelae Kirsi FIN *15:40:00 2:40.0 +4.0