Justyna Kowalczyk skied away from the field in the last kilometers to take the win in the women’s 15km pursuit in Canmore. Russian Evgenia Medvedeva was the only woman to best Kowalczyk’s skate time, a feat that brought her second place despite trailing the leaders by 15 seconds at the transition. Her teammate, Olga Rotcheva took third, just ahead of Ukrainian Valentina Schevchenko and a third Russian, Larissa Kurkina.
American Morgan Arritola had terrific race, finishing 24th, just under three minutes behind the winner. Arritola looked strong throughout the race, especially in the skate where she moved up four spots. Sara Renner of Canada was just behind in 25th.
“I kind of surprised myself,” Arritola conceded with a laugh. “It was a little like 'Oh, my god, I'm racing with the big kids.' But all the coaches kept reminding me it's just a ski race. There's a start and a finish, they said, and I should ski it as well as I could.”
She wasn't intimidated by skiing against the best in the world. “I knew it was going to be tough. When you're coming up, you look at all these skiers and so it was cool to be out there with them. But once the [starting] gun goes off, everyone's racing for themselves,” Arritola said.
“That's a good message to absorb. She listened to what we said, and that's great,” Head Coach Pete Vordenberg said. “It's a good lesson for everyone to learn.
“She skated particularly well even though she was tired. She was nervous before the race and that always burns energy. A lot of things can zap your energy, so she deal with it well,” he said.
Renner, a Canmore native skied into the top-30 for the first time this year.
â€œHonestly, I am so happy to be back racing on the World Cup again and it was really important for me to get into the top-30,â€ said Renner, who finished 38th in her only other World Cup race this season in Switzerland before Christmas. â€œIt was good to feel the speed of the World Cup again and this is a race that I will be able to build from. The support of our hometown today was phenomenal, and I feel very special to have the opportunity to be a part of this event in Canmore.â€ Renner is coming back from a year off to have a baby.
Norway had a tough day with bib 1 Astrid Jacobsen finishing 16th to lead the team.
Women's 15K Pursuit (7.5CL+7.5K FR)
1. Justyna Kowalczyk, Poland, 42:30.3
2. Evgenia Medvedeva, Russia, 42:46.2
3. Olga Rotcheva, Russia, 42:53.2
4. Valentina Shevchenko, Ukraine, 42:54.9
5. Larisa Kurkina, Russia, 42:56.9
American and Canadian Finishers
24. Morgan Arritola, Fairfield, ID, 45:27.2
25. Sara Renner, Canmore, Alta., 45:40.7
32. Tasha Betcherman, Thunder Bay, Ont., 46:17.9
35. Dasha Gaiazova, Montreal, 47:22.4
37. Madeleine Williams, Edmonton, 47:58.3
39. Taz Mannix, Talkeetna, AK, 48:17.7
40. Evelyn Dong, Bend, OR, 48:20.1
41. Kate Arduser, Anchorage, AK, 48:36.8
42. Amanda Ammar, Onoway, Alta., 49:05.1
43. Shayla Swanson, Calgary, 49:05.9
44. Brooke Gosling, Calgary, 49:13.9
45. Lindsey Dehlin, Mahtomedi, MN, 49:18.0
46. Jacqui Benson, Prince George, B.C., 50:46.9
Contributing Sources: USSA and Cross-Country Canada