Andy Newell posted the fastest time by 1.85 seconds in winning the qualifying round in the skate sprint in Lahti, Finland this morning. The margin of victory is all the more impressive in that the top 30 were separated by only 5.75 seconds. Canada's Devon Kershaw also had an excellent start to the day, qualifying in 4th position.
Matias Strandvall (FIN) pleased the home crowd, taking the second spot. Norweigan John Kristian Dahl was third.
Overall, Norway qualified six skiers for the heats and Finland took five of the top 30 spots.
No other North American men qualified.
Drew Goldsack, Phil Widmer and Stefan Kuhn finished 49th, 53rd and 59th respectively.
Garrott Kuzzy, Chris Cook and Leif Zimmermann raced for the Americans, with Kuzzy taking 63rd, 2.62 seconds out of qualifying. Cook was 72nd and Zimmermann 78th in the 80 skier field.
In the women's race, Kikkan Randall skied through to the heats, placing 15th, +2.72 seconds. Canada's Chandra Crawford, winner of the skate sprint in Canmore last month, qualified in 18th.
With the result sheet reporting the same distance for men and women, it appears that conditions were significantly faster for women. Qualifying times were nearly identical to the men's race, and in a rare occurrence, the spread between 1st and 30th was closer for the women than the men. Only 5.05 seconds separated the top 30.
Host Finland qualified skiers in 2nd and 3rd, and five overall. World Cup leader Virpi Kuitunen did not qualify, finishing just outside in 34th place. This opens the door for her top competition in the sprint World Cup – Petra Majdic (SLO) and Astrid Jacobsen (NOR) to make up ground on the Finnish star.
Germany also qualified five women. Russia took four spots, and Norway three.
Russian Natalia Korostoleva led the field.
Sara Renner, Perianne Jones, and Sarah Daitch also raced for Canada, finishing 40th, 51st and 53rd respectively.
Laura Valaas, the only other starter for the Americans was 60th in the 67 woman field.
Veteran of the American race circuit, Karin Camenisch, skiing for her native Switzerland, finished 55th.
Sprint heats will be held later today.