At this point it is difficult to imagine the Norweigan sprinters finding a way to surprise. It has become standard in the classic events for a sea of red uniforms to battle in the A and B finals. But today in Drammen, the Norweigan men put on a display of overwhelming dominance. In addition to taking the top two spots, the skiing powerhouse held four of the top five, twelve of the top fourteen, and sixteen of the top thirty places in the final World Cup sprint of the year.
Ola Vigen Hattestad took the victory over teammate Jens Arne Svartedal. Swedish sprint star Emil Joensson broke up the Norweigans while grabbing the final podium spot. After Boerre Naess in fourth and John Kristian Dahl in fifth came Japan's Yuichi Onda in an impressive sixth. This was Onda's first time inside the top 26 in an individual World Cup race this season. Last year he had a similar result in the Drammen sprint, taking 5th, several days after his career-best 4th place finish in Lahti.
After Onda, the result sheet reads like a who's who in Norweigan sprinting – not until place 15 do you find another nation – Thobias Fredriksson of Sweden.
American sprinters Andy Newell and Torin Koos fared well in qualifying, with Newell posting the ninth fastest time. Koos stood in 23rd after the opening round.
But neither was able to make it out of the quarterfinals, with Koos coming the closest. He missed advancing as a lucky loser by a mere two tenths of a second and finished a strong 19th on the day, his second-best individual placing of the season after an 11th in Canmore. Newell finished 5th in his quarterfinal and ended in 22nd.
Chris Cook was 1.23 seconds out of qualifying in 39th place. Garrott Kuzzy finished 58th.
The Canadian men did not qualify any skiers for the heats. Devon Kershaw led the team in 49th. Phil Widmer was 59th, Stefan Kuhn 62nd and Sean Crooks 66th in the 68 skier field.
The World Cup sprint standings are extremely close – today's winner Hattestad holds a two point lead over Joensson. The 4.5km freestyle race that is part of the World Cup final in Bormio, Italy, counts toward the sprint standings. With just one event left, it will be either Hattestad or Joensson on the top of the list. Places three through nine are very much up in the air still – though none of those skiers can overtake the top two.
Andy Newell is currently in tenth place overall, 25 points out of ninth. Torin Koos is in 39th place, with many skiers within reach ahead. Kershaw of Canada is currently 27th, and given his success in distance races this year, is the most likely to move up in the final event.