Petra Majdic claimed victory on a challenging 1.4 km course in the BÃ¼nda ski stadium in Davos, Switzerland. Youngster Celine Brun-Lie and veteran Marit Bjoergen (both Norway) took second and third respectively. Arianna Follis (ITA) was fourth, while her teammate Magda Genuin took the fifth spot and Natalia Matveeva (RUS) was sixth.
For Majdic, it was her first Word Cup victory and podium place ever in a free technique race. The tall Slovenian has steadily improved her freestyle, and has now demonstrated she can compete equally well in both techniques. She dominated the day from the start, winning the qualification round by an astounding 4.11 seconds over Bjoergen.
â€œI’m extremely happy. It is great — finally I got a victory in the free technique. Davos and the track fit’s me well.”
Madjic also noted the difficulty of the course, saying “I am happy that we have now longer and harder sprint courses — that suits me very well.”
The 20-year-old Celine Brun-Lie finished on a World Cup podium for the first time ever. Her best place so far was a 10th place finish last year in the sprint in Rybinsk, Russia.
Said Brun-Lie, one of a seemingly endless strong of young Norweigan women to demonstrate world class speed, â€œI am very happy and satisfied. To be on the World Cup podium was always my goal. Now that I have realized it, I will say thank you to all who helped me to get here!â€
Bjoergen has yet to win a race this year, but she she has finished on the podium in 5 of 7 starts, including the last four.
“It was a hard competition, but I skied round by round better, and today I was even better than yesterday. I think I am in a good shape so far, but my season highlight is coming with the World Championships in February.”
North America did not fare well. Kikkan Randall (USA) started the day by qualifying in 11th, but was unable to advance out of the quarterfinals, finishing 26th in her strongest event.
Randall, who finished fifth in the final freestyle sprint of 2008, suffered misfortune, getting tangled with Sweden's Charlotte Kalla during a climb in the middle of her quarterfinal lap.
“She tried to catch up after she went down, but there was just no chance,” US Sprint Coach Chris Grover said.
Both skiers were eliminated as just the top two skiers advance in final heats.
The Canadians had it worse, with Sara Renner and Perianne Jones both failing to qualify and finishing 44th and 47th respectively. Renner was 2.5 seconds out of the top 30.
In the overall World Cup, Aino Kaisa Saarinen (FIN), who was 8th, is still in the lead now with a 108 point advantage over Majdic (SLO). Bjoergen sits in third, nine points behind Majdic, and defneding chamipn Virpi Kuitunen is in fourth. Kuitunen, who appeared to be rounding into shape after wining Saturdays distance event, finished 29th.
In the Sprint Cup, Majdic is leads Justyna Kowalczyk (POL).
The World Cup continues next weekend in Dusseldorf, Germany with both a freestyle individual sprint and a team sprint. Distance racing will resume with the Tour de Ski after Christmas.
– Former SuperTour champion Karin Camenisch (SUI) finished 54th and 5th for Switzerland.
– Astrid Jacobsen (NOR) who finished second in the overall World Cup and the Sprint Cup last year, and has failed to crack the top-40 in three World Cup starts this season finished 43rd.
– Seven different nations were represented in the top 12.
– Majdic's teammate Vesna Fabjan, finished 10th, giving Slovenia two in the top 10. Impressive for a country of two million people. This was Fabjan's second best finish of career, trailing only a 5th last year in Rybinsk, Russia. Slovenia had a third skier in the heats, Katja Visnar in 24th.
– Astrid Oeyre Slind (NOR) finished 31st, .02 out of qualifying. She was 22nd in Saturday's distance race. The 20-year old Slind spent a year in the US while her father coached at Williams College.
Bjoergen charges to the line (Photo: Fischer Skis)