Liberec, Czech Republic – Aino-Kaisa Saarinen and Virpi Kuitunen skied away from the competition to bring home the gold for Finland in the women’s classic Team Sprint competition. The pair posted a 20 second victory over Silver medalists Sweden. Italy was another 3.8 seconds back to take the bronze.
Saarinen and Kuitunen set a fast pace early, stringing out the pack on the first lap. Their lead was 3.5 seconds after one lap, and a full 13.4 seconds after two. They maintained the pace and cruised in for the gold medal. Finland defended their title in the event – Kuitunen paired with Riita Liisa Roponen to win in 2007.
“After the qualification we knew, that we had to be strong,” said Saarinen. “We made a power to attack early and it worked. I was a bit surprised that nobody could chase me when I was attacking, I expected that somebody would follow. We discussed tactics after the qualification and decided it would be the right thing to attack early and try to go away. During the handoff we always said just “go for it” and in the last one I just said ‘enjoy!’ to Virpi.”
Saarinen now has two golds and a bronze in these World Championships.
And while the qualification was closr, they still held a 6.9 second advantage in their semifinal.
Lina Anderson, who led Sweden to the silver along with teammate Anna Olsen, knew the FInns would be tough to beat.
“We are very happy with our second place today. Finland was very strong and we knew it would be very tough to beat them. But we are very happy with silver. The tactics were the same as in the semifinal: take it easy and to be strong and be ready for the finish.”
The Italian team was also pleased with their medal. Marianna Longa continued her excellent World Championships. She won silver in the 10km, was 4th in the pursuit, and now has a bronze from the team event. Her teammate, Arianna Follis, the gold medalist in yesterday’s sprint was surprised by her perfrmance, saying, “It’s a little bit strange for me because I am not that good in the classic technique, but my Marianna is very strong. We won this medal together, and are very happy!”
The US team of Laura Valaas and Kikkan Randalljoined their male counterparts as the first team to miss the finals. It was not close, however, as the they were over 30 seconds out of the final lucky loser spot. They finished in 11th place. Randall, who favors the skate technique, was also coming of a long day yesterday, when she won the silver in the individual sprint.
Sara Renner and Perianne Jones skied Canada into the final, moving thorugh as a lucky loser. The two skied a strong race in the finals to finish 6th.
“We had two goals at the beginning of the day. Get into the top-six and buy diapers and I’m so happy I was able to get both accomplished,” said Renner, who is travelling with two-year-old daughter Aria. “Perianne skied exceptionally well today and when you get into the top-six in the world that shows you have arrived.”
Added Jones, “I was so happy to cap off the World Championships with this result. This is a super important result for me. It is an Olympic qualifier so I don’t have that hanging over me anymore, but to finish in the 40’s all the time on the World Cup is hard to take, and this gives me some confidence for sure.”
Heading into the final lap, Renner handed off to Jones in ninth place, and the youngster from Almonte, Ont., stepped on the throttle to move the Canadian duo into sixth spot, and her best-ever international finish.
The Canadians were 1:03 behind the winners, and 13 seconds out of 5th.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.