22-year old Josef Wenzl of Germany won the qualification round by a stunning margin of almost three seconds over Swedish sprinting star Bjoern Lind. Finnish youngster Matias Strandvall qualified third with Oeystein Pettersen (NOR) in fourth. The freestyle sprint event, held in Dusseldorf's (GER) Old Town, was the first event of the 2007/2008 World Cup season. Action continues tomorrow with a team sprint.
Wenzl raced a number of World Cup races last season, in addition to the U23 World Championships. He qualified in first in the World Cup sprint in Rybinsk, Russia, finishing a career best 8th. Today, he won 2 of his 3 heats, finishing 2nd to Dahl of Norway in the semis, before winning the A final.
Norway and Sweden dominated the qualification round placing, seven and six skiers respectively in the top 30. In the heats, the two Scandanavian nations moved up the rankings, but no one was able to topple the young German skier.
American Andy Newell qualified in 14th place but was unable to make it through the first round, finshing 19th on the day. His qualification time of 3:06.45 was nearly 7.5 seconds behind Wenzl. Newell's teammate Torin Koos was unable to crack the top 30, finishing 43rd in the 77-skier field with a qualification time of 3:11.38.
Newell finished 4th in his heat, behind Pettersen, Northug, and Mikael Oestberg (SWE). He was hurt by the fact that his heat was the slowest, taking away any chance of advancement as a “lucky-loser.”
Canadian Philip Widmer just missed advancing to the heats – in 36th place, he was less than a second out of the top 30. Other Candians included Stefan Kuhn 60th, Sean Crooks 70th, and David Nighbor 71st.
– 10 of the top 20 qualifiers were 24-years old or younger – including 21-year old Nikolay Morilov of Russia and 20-year-old Martti Jylhae of Finland.
– 12 different nations were represented in the heats (Germany, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Japan, France, Russia, Kazakhstan, United States, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Italy).
– Oeystein Pettersen's (NOR) pick for victory, Ola Vigen Hattestad (NOR) did not qualify, finishing in 50th. See The Sausageâ€ Believes in Hattestad’s Chances
– Swedes Bjoern Lind and Thobias Fredriksson both competed (Lind finished 2nd, Fredriksson 9th) showing that new team manger Gunde Svan has resolved the cross-country skiing conflict within Sweden. See Another Episode in the Swedish National Ski Team Soap Opera
Full results can be viewed at the FIS website.
Contributing Source: FIS