Virpi Kuitunen (FIN) add valuable points to her overall World Cup lead with her victory in the classic sprint in Stockholm, Sweden. Kuitunen has led the World Cup since Canmore, but Norweigan Astrid Jacobsen has closed the gap over the past few weeks.
Kuitunen showed her usual strong form in classic sprinting. She won the qualification and each of her heats on the way to the top of the podium. Petra Majdic, always near the top in classic sprints, was a close second. Majdic, who won this event in Canmore, lost the overall sprint ranking lead to Kuitunen and now trails the Finnish star by a mere two points.
The surprise of the day was Madoka Natsumi of Japan, who finished third. Natsumi, who skied her first World Cup race in 1997 as a 19 year old, stood on the World Cup podium for the first time in her career. She has been a successful sprinter, with her previous best a 5th place finish earlier this season.
The Swedish women were unable to accomplish much on their home turf. They were led by Lina Anderssen in 26th place, and haven't showed the form that allowed them to dominate women's sprinting several years ago.
Canadian Chandra Crawford had a solid day with a 12th place finish. The defending Olympic sprint gold medalist is a stronger skater, but has showed significant improvement in classic sprinting this year. She just made the heats with her 28th in qualification, but advanced out of her quarterfinal before finishing last in her semifinal and the B-final. Her times back in those heats were significant and it is unclear if she fell or was simply out of gas.
â€œI had another exciting day and summoned all of the energy in my body to try and break through to the final, but finished 12th for the third straight time,â€ said the 24-year-old Crawford. â€œThere is all kinds of work I need to do to get to the next level but the key is really holding my technique and everything together when I am really tired. I have come a long way from placing 40th in this race to now consistently in the top-12. With two years to go until Vancouver I think I’m on track.â€
No other Canadians or Americans qualified for the heats.
Read a brief account of the day from Andy Newell and see photos (that snow was dirty!!) on his blog: