Cue the crowd and the rock music: Petra Majdic (SLO) has won another World Cup sprint race.
After leading wire-to-wire in Sunday’s classic sprint final in Otepaa, Estonia, Majdic repeated a raucous celebration that is quickly becoming her trademark—taking her third win of the year with gusto over Sweden’s Hanna Brodin and Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla.
Canada’s Dasha Gaiazova skied to eighth, her career-best finish in an individual World Cup, after coming from last in her quarterfinal heat to sneak into the semis. Her teammate Chandra Crawford was 27th.
For Majdic, the dancing, shouting, and pose-striking might have seemed a little excessive, but she earned the right to do it after fighting her way back from five broken ribs and a punctured lung suffered in a crash at the 2010 Olympics.
Majdic’s goal for the year had been simply to capture a single race, given a lengthy recovery period and struggles with motivation.
“The summer was really hard for me, especially for my head,” she said in the press conference. “I’m really happy with the season so far.”
Given that she already has a World Championships medal to her name, her focus for this year’s edition in Oslo, in a month? One word: “joy.”
Out of the three heavy hitters who started the women’s sprint today, Majdic was the only one to grace the podium. Poland’s Justyna Kowalczyk was fourth, while Norway’s Marit Bjoergen was eliminated in the semifinals after bogging down behind Slovenia’s Katja Visnar. Without an opportunity on Otepaa’s flat sprint course to string things out early in the race, Bjoergen didn’t have the pure speed she needed to close out her heat in the double pole finish.
“It was the tactics—when she’s going behind someone else, she’s not good enough,” said her coach, Egil Kristiansen.
For most others, a win on Saturday and 10th on Sunday would have been sufficient. But it wasn’t nearly enough for Bjoergen, who stalked past the Norwegian media assembled at the finish without a word—although she later returned for some brief interviews
in her native language.
She told NRK, the Norwegian broadcaster, that elimination in the semis was her “own fault.”
Looping in and out of the gradual rises surrounding Otepaa’s stadium, the women’s course, a new one, was great for spectators—although it wasn’t particularly challenging. Unlike the men, all the women still had to resort to kick wax, but in her own way, Majdic affirmed that the climbs weren’t too tough.
“Yesterday, I said ‘oh, shit, I don’t like this new track—I like it harder,’” she said.
But on Sunday, she said, she wasn’t feeling her best after suffering from illness earlier this week, and realized she was lucky the hills weren’t bigger once she was out on the course.
In the finals, Majdic got off to a good start, and a fast pair of skis kept her challengers at bay on the downhills. She said she knew that if she could reach the last corner in first or second, she could hold on for the win—even if normally, she’s not “so self-confident.”
Indeed, Majdic had a gap going into the homestretch, and it was enough—though a ferocious charge by Brodin in the double-pole made things interesting, briefly.
Last year’s sprint champion at the World Junior Championships, Brodin is built like a tree trunk, with each of her legs big enough to require its own root system. She packs a ton of power into a small frame, and at 20 years old, she has plenty of
In the past, she’s been overshadowed by the Swedish team’s other Hanna, Hanna Falk, who placed second to Kikkan Randall last week at a sprint in the Czech Republic. But the team’s coach, Rickard Grip, told FasterSkier that he wasn’t surprised to see Brodin’s performance on Sunday.
“For sure, Falk maybe is a bigger favorite for the competition,” he said. “She was on the podium last week, and is in really good shape, but sprint is sprint. I know that Hanna Brodin…is really good at double poling, as she showed today in the last 200 meters.”
Brodin will stay in town for the World U-23 Championships later this week.
Majdic, meanwhile, will head to a training camp in Italy. While she has three wins this season, all have come in sprint races, and Ivan Hudac, her coach, said that Majdic has some work to do to be competitive in the distance races in Oslo.
“She is missing [some] training now,” he said. “Of course, for distance, it’s very important—maybe for sprint, a little less, relatively…Anything is possible. It depends on shape, and the luck we have with the skis, and the snow conditions, and stuff like that.”
Nathaniel Herz is a reporter for FasterSkier, who also covers city government for the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska. You can follow him on twitter @nat_herz.