With the World Cup season fast approaching, skiers from all over the world are traveling to find some on-snow race experience. Over this past weekend in Beitostlen, Norway, racers from France, Slovenia, Switzerland, and of course Norway, took part in a series of cross-country and biathlon events, which are the final qualifiers for the World Cup for the Norwegians. In addition, a single American was in attendance, Williams College student Mark Johnson, who has also shared some of his thoughts on the races.
Beitostlen offered almost perfect skiing conditions with a foot of natural snow covering a solid man-made base. Despite the large amount of snow, there were still some difficult weather conditions to contend with. The week before the races had been quite cold, but come Saturday morning, the conditions were fairly warm with some strong winds.
The races on Saturday started with the men’s 10km biathlon event. The strong and unpredictable wind made shooting quite a challenge, and is easily seen on the result list. Lars Berger, one of the fastest skiers, struggled in both prone and standing, and hit only 4 of his 10 targets to finish 12th. The winner of the day, Frode Andresen, shot extremely well for the conditions â€” 1 missed target. Frode was followed by Ronny HafsÃ¥s (NOR) in second and Thomas Frei (SUI) in third. Mark Johnson (Mt. Itasca USA and Team Statkraft Lillehammer) finished 36th with three misses, 4:12 back. Johnson felt that this race was a solid performance for the start to the season. â€œMy skiing today wasn’t optimal, but I’m satisfied with my shooting given that today’s conditions were so adverse. Even though I didn’t put together a great race today, it is still fun to be able to compete with guys that last year I really wouldn’t have had a chance against.â€
Last year’s world champion Emil Hegle Svendsen didn’t start Saturday’s biathlon competition, but instead raced the 15km freestyle cross-country event. Emil finished 7th in the event 56 sec behind winner Aasen Ouren (NOR).
In the women’s 7.5km biathlon event, Tora Berger (NOR) also displayed some great shooting. She cleaned both her prone and standing to come away with 10 hits (100% shooting). She won by 28 seconds over fellow Norwegian Solveig Rogstad, and by 1:06 over Sandrine Bailly (FRA).
The shooting remained difficult due to strong winds during Sunday’s 12.5km women’s mass start. Tora Berger continued her success and finished first with only one miss on the day. Solveig Rogstad (NOR), with a phenomenal 20 hits, finished second, and rounding out the top three was Liv Kjersti Eikland (NOR).
In the men’s 15km mass start, Frode Andresen made an amazing push and made up almost 30 sec in the final loop on Emil Helge Svendsen. In the end, though, Emil just held on to take the victory by 1.9 seconds. Emil had two misses on the day to Frode’s three. Finishing in third was Lars Berger with six misses, 45sec back. American Mark Johnson finished 30th today with seven penalties. â€œToday’s race was a lot of funâ€”I was skiing much better. I had a strong start by hitting nine of my ten prone targets, and was almost in the top ten during my third loop. Unfortunately, I struggled with my standing shooting and was moved back a ways. By far the best part of the day was dueling it out with a couple of my good friends on the last loop. Overall, I’m just happy to have had the opportunity to race with these guys. I know I have a lot to improve on, but I think I’ve made some progress.â€
Emil Helge Svendsen holds off Frode Andersen as the two approach the finish of the Men's 15km mass start.