Dusseldorf, Germany – Hanna Falk (SWE), just 20 years old, won her first World Cup race, in only her third start. The young Swede qualified 4th before advancing through the heats.
Falk finished 7th in the classic sprint last weekend in Finland. Her only other World Cup start was in March 2007 – a classic sprint in Stockholm where she finished 49th.
She skied aggressively in the heats, taking control early and leading into the finish on the short Dusseldorf course.
“It´s my first time on the podium – my first victory!” said Falk. “It’s amazing because it’s just my second World Cup. I liked the track here very much – it´s the kind of track that allows to go very fast.”
The women raced just one loop on the city streets by the river, making for a very quick .8km. Arianna Follis (ITA) won the qualification round in a time of 1:42.70. Marit Bjoergen (NOR), back from illness, qualified 2nd, just .9 seconds behind Follis. Pirjo Muranen (FIN) was third.
The top qualifiers did not fare well in the heats, with Follis ending in 9th, Bjoergen 8th, and Muranen 10th.
Natalia Korosteleva (RUS) finished 2nd behind Falk, her third career podium, and first since 2008.
A Slovenian did stand on the podium, but it was not Petra Majdic. Vesna Fabjan scored her first podium finish ever, taking third place. Fabjan’s previous best was a 4th in the Lahti sprint last season.
Fabjan was ecstatic at the press conference. ““It is my first time on the podium – and I am happy, happy, happy! I was hoping for sunshine for today’s races – but no matter if it’s raining or snowing – I like it here!”
Majdic, the World Cup sprint champion last year finished a disappointing 13th, qualifying 12th.
Kikkan Randall qualified 19th, but her day ended early when she fell at the start of her quarterfinal. She was not able to recover, and finished a 28th.
Chandra Crawford (CAN) showed good form in her first skate sprint in a year and a half. After missing last year due to injury, Crawford qualified 27th and skied up to a solid 12th. She advanced out of the quarterfinals as a lucky loser, and the result gave her a spot on the Canadian Olympic Team.
“I am super relieved and thrilled that I was able to get my Olympic qualifier,” said Crawford, who needed a top-20 finish on the World Cup. “It was really close, but I felt pretty relaxed and it was great to have the nerves and adrenaline of racing again.
“I was already starting to look to my next chance to qualify next weekend, but I had a really fast heat and got to move on,” said a beaming Crawford, who also raced two distance races earlier this year. “I got three good races in today with the qualifier, quarter-final round and semis. This will be a good confidence booster for me and I’m going to continue to build from here.”
Her teammate, Perianne Jones, finished just out of the heats in 35th, .52 seconds from the top-30. Jones qualified for the Olympic team last year with her 6th in the Team Sprint at the World Championships.
Jones and Crawford will race the team event tomorrow.
– With Ida Ingemarsdotter in 4th and Lina Andersen in 7th, Sweden placed three skiers in the top-10.
– The top Norwegian was Celine Brun-Lie in 5th.
– 13 different nations were represented in the heats.
– Top women Aino Kais Saarinen (FIN), Virpi Kuitunen (FIN), and Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) did not race.
– Norway and Sweden both qualified four for the heats.
– Triin Ojaste (EST) qualified for her first World Cup sprint heat, while 18-year-old Gaia Vuerich (ITA) and Bettina Gruber (SUI) made the top-30 for the second time.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.