The weather was beautiful and sunny in Otepää and almost every heat had an exciting finish that went to a photo finish. Qualification saw Saarinen and Jönsson grab the fastest times. The Swede’s showed up very strong today in both the men’s and women’s sides. Whoever though that Sweden would be putting more skiers into the men’s and women’s finals than the Norwegians…perhaps the tables are turning? The Swede’s showed their domination and Jönsson led every single heat he was in from the start to finish while Falk showed her power to out pole Majdic for the win on the women’s side.
The first semi saw Majdic and Visnar in the Slovenian suits which are arguably the loudest suits to ever been worn by cross country skiers. Saarinen bossed the pace and made it difficult even for the likes of Majdic. Unfortunately for the Finn, both Majdic and Falk out sprinted her in the final stretch to take the automatic qualification spots for the final. Luckily, the second heat was much slower and Saarinen got a lucky loser spot to the final.
The big news in the second semi was Canadian Gaiazova who continued her impressive weekend of World Cup racing as she qualified 10th and was able to get into the semi-final with a lucky loser spot. However, that’s as far as she got in the sprints and ended up 12th on the day. Kowalczyk was one of those who were in the second semi and fell off the back of the pack early on but was able to ski her way back into contention. Coming back into the stadium, the heat was lead by Swede’s Ingemarsdotter and Pajala. It was yet again a very tight heat with all six skiers within 1.1 seconds of each other. Suprisingly, both Kowalczyk and Bjørgen weren’t able to qualify for the final and finished seventh and ninth place on the day.
The final consisted of three Finns, two Swedes and Majdic. Majdic led out hard and left the other skiers wanting. Coming into the final stretch, it was Falk and Majdic who were going head to head. In the last 15 meters Falk found a gear and put in an amazing amount of power to pole past the Slovenian. As they crossed the finish line, Majdic cocked her head as if to say “hey I can only do so much.” As I said in my blog yesterday, I was very interested in seeing how Falk got on today, and she showed today that she is one to be taken seriously. Her performances earlier in the year weren’t flukes.
1. Hanna Falk
2. Petra Majdic
3. Aino Kaisa Saarinen
Notes: Sweden is looking strong on the sprint side as they had five athletes in the quarter finals; four of those skier were able to advance to the semis.
Usually this is Norwegian sprinters bread and butter but today it wasn’t the case. Usual sprinters to top the podium such as Rønning, Dahl and Kjølstad were able to qualify for the top 30.
The first semi was dominated by Jönsson who led from the gun to the line. The second semi saw Lind lead for the beginning, at the top of the main climb, hometown hero Kummel fell. The second semi saw Panzhinskiy and Lind qualify comfortably for the final, but it was not fast enough to see anyone else from the heat pick up any lucky loser spots for the final.
The final saw Jönsson took the lead early on and lead all the way up the hill out of the stadium with Hattestad and Lind hot on his heels. The heat yo-yoed on the final downhill into the final stretch and it was a race between Jönsson, Hattestad and Kruikov. The Swede managed to barely beat Hattestad on the lunge by half a boot while Kruikov came in third. It was arguably the most exciting finish of the season as the top three were separated by half a ski length.
1. Emil Jönsson
2. Ola Vigen Hattestad
3. Nikita Kriukov
Notes: Like the Swedish women, the men showed up to be very strong with six in the top. Only Canadian to qualify, Stefan Kuhn fell in quarter-final, but it looked like he wasn’t going to qualify anyway. China has their best ever qualifier in the men’s event with Qinghai Sun qualify 19th for the day. He was unable to make it out of the quarter-finals. Andrew Newell had yet another good qualifier as he was sixth fastest but was unable to ski out of the quarter-finals and finished 13th overall.
Til Next Time.