Praz de Lys, France – The U23 Championships came to a close with a classic sprint, also the first event of the World Junior Championships.
The Canadian men’s U23 team capped an excellent week by placing four skiers in the top 10, led by Alex Harvey in 5th.
Harvey, gunning for a podium result, and possibly a victory, was foiled in achieving those goals, but still impressed with two top-5 results. Teammate Len Valjas joined Harvey in the A-Final, taking the final spot and finishing 6th on the day, one place better than his top result in the 15km that opend the championships.
Frederic Touchette skied to second place in the B-Final and an 8th place. Brent McMurtry was fourth in the same heat and 10th on the day.
The race was won by Ales Razym (CZE), who finished just ahead of Andrey Feller (RUS) and the German Daniel Heun. Razym competed only in the sprint in France, and has experience on the World Cup with a career best 11th place finish early this season in Davos.
Razym was surprised by his result, saying “That was a great competition. I’m satisfied and surprised because I had no specific preparation for these championships. I will start a training camp for Liberec tomorrow. I’m also surprised to win in a classical style sprint because I’m usually better in free technique. I had some injuries during summer time and had time to train my double polling; it looks like that it was successful but not enough for the World Cup level.”
The US was led by Simi Hamilton in 17th place. Hamilton qualified 15th and was unable to advance out of the quarterfinals. Matt Gelso was 32nd, 1.4 seconds out of qualifying for the heats. Karl Nygren was 43rd.
In the women’s U23 competition, Morgan Smyth (USA) led 5 North Americans in the heats, finishing 12th. Smyth barely qualified, with the 29th fastest time, but stepped it up in the heats, advancing to the B-Final where she finished last. Canadian Allyson Marshall was 13th.
Joining Smyth in the top 30 for the US was Jennie Bender. Bender qualified in 27th and moved up to 24th in the heats. Canadians Amanda Ammar and Brittany Webster finished 25th and 28th respectively.
American Liz Stephen, who has had an excellent week with 4th and 8th place finishes in the distance races, missed the heats, taking 38th place.
The top three qualifiers, maintained their positions, and occupied the final podium spots. Nina Rysina (RUS) won just ahead of Karianne Bjellaanes (NOR) and Mari Laukkanen (FIN).
Alexander Panzhinskiy (RUS) won the Junior Men’s event ahead of Timo Andre Bakken (NOR). Third place went to Japanese Kohei Shimizu, the fastest qualifier on the 1.5km course.
Said Panzhinskiy “I’m very happy, this was my dream and I realized it today. I tried to keep energy until the final and that’s why I think I was strong in the final.”
Julien Nury (CAN) led North America in 8th place. Nury qualified 16th and advanced to the B-Final where he finished second. His teammate Graeme Killick qualified 13th and finished 14th on the day.
The US was led by Erik Bjornsen in 21st place. He was the only American to qualify for the heats. Patrick Johnson was 45th, George Cartwright 50th, and Lex Treinen 84th. Treinin was last by 30 seconds, so it is likely he fell during qualification, or had a similar mishap.
Scandinavia dominated the Junior Women’s event, taking the top eight places. Norwegian World Cup starter Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg claimed victory ahead of Hanna Brodin (SWE). In third place was Maiken Caspersen Falla (NOR). The favorite, Marthe Kristoffersen (NOR) just missed the podium and finished fourth.
Brodin is the only woman in the top four who has not scored World Cup points. Falla has one World Cup podium under her belt, Kristoffersen a 5th, and Oestberg a 14th.
Sadie Bjornsen led the US in 11th place after qualifying 15th, an impressive result considering the depth and strength of the field. Her teammate Sophie Caldwell had an excellent qualifying round, placing 7th, but she was unable to advance out of the quarterfinals, and finished 17th. Amy Glen, the final US starter, was 42nd.
Canada qualified two for the heats – Marlis Kromm and Heidi Widmer. Neither was able to advance and the two finished 23rd and 24th respectively. Janlie Greer just missed the top-30, finishing 34th. Catherine Aucliar was 45th.
The sprints conclude the U23 Championships. World Juniors continues on Tuesday with the 10/20km pursuit.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.