Falun, Sweden – The World Cup Final and Nordic Cup continues tomorrow in Sweden with a 2.5/3,3 km freestyle prologue. Both the Americans and Canadians have their full World Cup teams competing.
The World Cup Final consists of four events, and athletes must complete all four to earn World Cup points. Petra Majdic (SLO) leads the women’s competition, holding a 2.9 seconds lead over Aino Kaisa Saarinen (FIN). In the men’s event, Johan Kjoelstad (NOR) holds a 5 seconds lead over teammate John Kristian Dahl. The current standings are based on yesterday’s sprint race where bonus seconds were awarded to the top 30 and subtracted from the qualification times.
Andy Newell is the top North American. He currently sits in 10th, 26.8 seconds back. Torin Koos is not far behind in 16th.
The prologue shouls be an interesting event – longer than a sprint, but significantly shorter than any other distance race, it is hard to predict who will excel. Since the US has not participated in the Tour de Ski, where this event is standard, there is no historical precedent for the team. Kikkan Randall should be well suited to the event – she is a strong skater, posseses excellent speed, and has the endurance to finish in the top 30 in a World Cup distance race.
The men are question marks, and at first glance, do not seem to stack up well. Overall the US sprinters have struggled with the longer sprint races this season, and have not fared well as the heats progressed, demonstrating a sortage of fitness. But this is not a typical sprint race, and Newell’s ability to push the red line, and both Koos’ and Cook’s past success in domestic distance races could be an indication that they could compete for the top 30.
That said, the Canadian men are more likely to be crack the points. In fact, Canada will start four men who could all be in the top 10. Devon Kershaw has done very well in the Tour de Ski at this distance, Alex Harvey is skiing very well, and nothing he does right now should surprise, and George Grey has a good mix of endurance and speed. Ivan Babikov is definitely not a a sprinter, but 3.3km will tap into his endurance, and he has had his best results in skate. Dave Nighbor will also compete, and build upon his 29th last weekend in Trondheim.
Sarah Renner leads the Canadian women, and should compete for the top 20, and top 10, while not likely is a possibility. she will be joined by teammates Perianne Jones and Daria Gaiazova.
It is exciting to see full squads from North America competing in the World Cup Final. The format is challenging and the fields are as tough as they get.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.