Canmore, Alberta – Emil Joensson (SWE) and Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) won the classic sprint qualifier this morining on a long challenging course at the Canmore Nordic Center.
Kowalczyk was dominating, winning in a time of 3:30.27, 4.55 seconds ahead of rival Petra Majdic (SLO). Anna Olsson was 3rd, another 2.2 sconds behind Majdic. The women’s field was surprisingly spread out, with a number of large gaps in the top-30 – though none was larger than Kowalczyk’s margin of victory.
According to US sprint coach Chris Grover, there are two reasons for these gaps.
“One is that we have a little bit weaker field than we would see at a normal World Cup, so there are not so many guys fighting for the top spots. The second is that it is such a long course. So those two things are spreading it out,” said Grover.
Daria Gaiazova led Canada in 9th place, 11 seconds behind Kowalczyk. Teammate Sarah Renner was 15th – a good result for Renner who has struggled in the sprint in recent years.
The US women were led by Holly Brooks, who continued a strong World Cup debut weekend. Brooks qualified in 21st, 15.42 back. She was closely followed by Kikkan Randall in 22nd.
Randall was not pleased with her race, declining to comment on her performance andshaking her head in response to coach Grover’s querries.
She did not have her usual pop on course, looking sluggish on the second climb.
This hill featured a tight corner without a track, and how quickly a skier ran through this stretch was indicative of their overall performance. Those who were light and quick here generally stacked up well on the final results.
Caitlin Compton, who failed to crack the top-30, was fired up for teammates. “Awesome! An awesome time to be an American woman,” she enthused.
Chandra Crawford and Perianne Jones both qualified for Canada as well, Crawford in 24th and Jones in 29th.
There were no big names missing from the top-30, though Swedish phenom Hannah Falk was a late scratch due to a minor groin injury.
Nicole DeYong (USA) finished 47th, nine seconds out. “I just went out and skied as hard as I could, unfortunately I wasn’t in the top-30, but that is all right.”
Compton noted the length and challenging terrain of the course. “The heats will be decided on the big climb, I think,” she said. “The strong women will be able to move there.”
In the men’s race, Joensson was strong, but not as dominating as Kowalczyk. The big story was Koos, who has struggled to qualify for the heats all season. Today there was no doubt, and his result was legit in any field.
Just 1 second behind Joensson, Koos will not be satisfied with a strong qualification.
Teammmate Andy Newell, out in bib 1 qualified a solid 10th, telling FasterSkier that it wasn’t a great race.
The rest of the US men were clustered in the 20’s, led by Simi Hamilton in 23rd. Garrott Kuzzy was just behind in 26th and Cook in 27th.
Canada was led by Stefan Kuhn’s impressive 7th. Phil Widmer was 18th, Sean Crooks 19th, Devon Kershaw 22nd, and Brent McMurtry 25th, giving the home crowd plenty to cheer about.
In a stroke of good luck all five US mean are in different heats, meaning they will not have to contend with each other for semifinal spots.
Topher Sabot is the editor of FasterSkier.