Stockholm, Sweden – Anna Olsson thrilled the home crowd, leading an impressive day for the Swedish team, winning the city sprint yesterday in downtown Stockholm.
Nikita Kriukov (RUS) took the men’s race in a tight finish with Petter Northug (NOR).
Between the men’s and the women’s races, Sweden had secen skiers in the finals. The men placed 3,4,5,6, led by Sprint Cup champion Emil Joensson, and the women took 1,4, and 6.
Olsson was able to hold off Justyna Kowalczyk (POL) at the line. Kowalczyk Came back on the steep climb to the finish and even briefly moved in to the lead. But Olsson did not falter, and battled back. Marit Bjoergen (NOR) staged her own comeback. At the back of the pack for much of the final, and looking tired, she made a strong move on the outside on the last hill and reached the podium.
Kikkan Randall (USA) continued her strong run with a 15th.
Dasha Gaiazova (CAN) also performed well, reaching the heats and placing 23rd.
Northug was the only skier to double pole the course, a bold decision given the large climb at the end. He set the pace in the three fastest heats of the day, including a blistering final.
In both the quarters and semis, Northug swas back in the pack for the first half. He would get off the line slowly as his competitors could stride. But on the long gradual down double pole on the backside, Northug attacked and both times opened up 20 meters in a matter of seconds. The field would come back on the hill, but both times he held on for first.
In the final he ended up a bit further back, and had to make up some ground on his favored terrain. He still broke away, but this time Kriukov was wise to his plane. The Russian matched Northug’s ferocious double pole and stayed on his tails.
Northug impressively maintained a lead for much of the last climb, but Kriukov was finally able to pull ahead for the win.
Joensson also came back hard, and it took a huge lunge by Northug to stay in 2nd.
Andy Newell skied in a good position in his quarterfinal, but ran out of gas on the hill and ended the day in 22nd.
This race marked the first event of the World Cup Finals. Bonus sprint points were awarded to the top 30 in each race. Distance racing gets underway with a 2.5/3.3km classic prologue on Friday.
Four skiers have withdrawn from the Finals, three of them on the Kazakh team, most likely due to illness.