The FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Sapporo (JPN) drew to a close last Sunday. The first independent Championships held in Asia, Sapporo 2007 presented the unquestionable season highlight for the FIS Nordic disciplines. In the 18 title events, 14 nations won medals. The medals table was led by Norway with a total of 16 medals, followed by Finland and Germany with eight and nine medals, respectively.
â€œOn behalf of FIS, I can only congratulate the Organizing Committee for the excellent organization of this historic event. The team led by FIS Vice President Yoshiro Ito had paid careful attention even to the smallest details and everything from very high-quality accommodation to transportation to competition infrastructure and beyond was perfectly arranged,â€ said FIS President Gian Franco Kasper. â€œWe may have wished to see some more spectators especially during the week days, but are very pleased with the exciting competitions on well-prepared courses and ski jumps as well as with the beautiful images transmitted around the world,â€ he added.
All competitions were held as late as possible local time to allow for the largest possible TV audiences despite the time difference to other regions. In terms of the final competitions, in the ladies’ Cross-Country relay, Finland took charge in the first leg and remained in control throughout the event to capture the first gold since the 1988 home World Championships in Lahti. Thanks to an impressing end spurt in the final kilometer, Evi Sachenbacher-Stehle secured the silver to Team Germany while Norway was left with the bronze. In the men’s relay, Petter Northug blew past the anchors of the Russian and Swedish teams in the final uphill to secure the gold to the defending champion Norway. The great favorite Germany finished 4th.
The final ladies’ event, the 30km mass start race in the classical technique, finally provided the chance for the World Cup leader and Tour de Ski champion Virpi Kuitunen to claim her first individual gold as Norway’s Kristin Steira was unable to respond to her attack in the last stretch. A small sensation, only 19-year-old Therese Johaug (NOR) won the battle for the bronze medal against Aino-Kaisa Saarinen (FIN). With a total of four medals — three golden ones and a bronze — Kuitunen became the most decorated athlete in Sapporo. In the men’s long distance race on the final day, Norway's veteran Odd-Bjorn Hjelmeset won ahead of the defending champion and compatriot Frode Estil. Hjelmeset won despite having broken a binding in the middle of the race and having to change one of his skis.