Without further adieu, we give you the follow-up to the 10 juniors to watch that we listed this morning. Below are 10 athletes with chances for medals at the U-23 World Championships in Otepaa, Estonia, which begin Thursday with a 10/15 k freestyle.
Estonia’s two male cross-country skiing legends—Jaak Mae and Andrus Veerpalu—are in the twilight of their careers. Tammjarv, a 21-year-old, is the nation’s next great hope. He was fifth in the 15 k classic at last year’s U-23 Championships, and qualified for his first-ever World Cup sprint heats at last weekend’s event here, which he told the Estonian press was a surprise. According to Postimees, Estonia’s national newspaper, Tammjarv will start all three U-23 races on his home turf in Otepaa—the sprint, 30 k pursuit, and 15 k freestyle.
Peterson is an experienced World Cup sprinter, having already racked up three top-ten finishes in the course of his career—as well
as cracking the semifinals in last year’s classic sprint in Vancouver. He’s coming off an eighth place in last weekend’s Otepaa World Cup, which he called one of his best races in years, and he also had quite a summer and fall, including training in Portugal and an on-snow sprint in China.
Musgrave is British, which might lead you to immediately discount his potential to do anything significant in an international race. Don’t—he’s legit. Currently, Musgrave is training and racing with a Norwegian squad, Team Hovden, and he more than held his own throughout the early season. Among the names he’s topped in races this year include Ivan Babikov, Sami Jauhojaervi, and Tord-Asle Gjerdalen in distance, and Torin Koos and John Kristian Dahl in sprinting. On Wednesday, he told FasterSkier that his results had taken a bit of a dip since November, but that they’re on their way back up.
Russia’s biggest young star, Petr Sedov, was sidelined from Estonia with heart problems. (They’ve since been resolved.) Belov isn’t as big of a name—nor is he as big in stature—but his results have been nearly as strong. At just 20 years old, he was eighth in the 15 k pursuit at this fall’s World Cup in Kuusamo, Finland, and he also owns two medals from the 2010 Junior World Championships. (His teammate, sprinter Alexander Panzhinskiy, is also one to watch, but we figure it goes without saying that you’re already paying attention to Olympic medalists—so we left Germany’s Tim Tscharnke out of this preview, too.)
Finn Hagen Krogh
Many of Norway’s best U-23 athletes are away from Estonia, back home competing in their national championships in hopes of qualifying for the 2011 World Ski Championships in Oslo. Krogh is the best of the rest. He can do it all—sprint, distance, classic, skate—and he’s only 20. It’s his first year as a U-23, but after some impressive early-season results, and a proven ability in the clutch—he has three World Junior Championships medals to his name already—look for him to add to his collection in Otepaa.
Lahteenmaki put together some impressive skiing at last year’s World Juniors, winning the five k classic, placing fifth in the sprint, and anchoring her relay team to second. This year, though, she’s on an entirely different level. After six World Cup top 10’s and a podium at the Tour de Ski, she’s sitting eighth in the overall rankings, and has earned $12,500 in prize money. She’s had a bit of a rough go of it in Otepaa so far, having missed last weekend’s World Cup races with an elevated hemoglobin level, but she passed her screening on Tuesday, and according to Finnish U-23 coach Ilkka Jarva, she handled the ordeal well—even with the country’s press going nuts over the result. “She doesn’t care—she wants to ski, and she’s motivated by success,” he said.
Another World Cup veteran, the 22-year-old Herrman has been racing that circuit since last season. Primarily a sprinter, Herrmann’s top result this year was a seventh place in the Tour de Ski prologue, and last year, she came away with a silver medal from the U-23 sprint. Interestingly, Herrmann is likely the only competitor at U-23’s to have served a doping ban—in her case, a suspension imposed in 2007 by the German Ski Federation for testing positive for Clenbuterol, the same substance Tour de France winner Alberto Contador is alleged of abusing. Herrmann got it in her system thanks to some cough syrup, and had to sit out of competitions for a full year—she’s been back since late 2008.
Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg
For the last two years, the women’s events at the World Junior Championships have had just two medals up for grabs—the third was reserved for Oestberg. Between the 2009 and 2010 editions of the event, there were eight races, including relays; Oestberg took gold in six, and silver in the other two. She’s taking a step up to the U-23 ranks this year, but based on her season’s results so far—16 World Cup starts, and just three finishes outside the top 30—she won’t have too tough a go of it in Otepaa.
The Swedish Hannas
Hanna Falk and Hanna Brodin are two of the best sprinters in the world—let alone among U-23 athletes. Falk was second to Kikkan Randall in the World Cup skate sprint in the Czech Republic two weeks ago, while Brodin finished a few feet behind Slovenia’s Petra Majdic in the Otepaa classic sprint four days ago to collect her first-ever podium. Between this pair, Oestberg, and Herrman, the U-23 sprint final could have the look of one on the World Cup.
Lahteenmaki’s up-and-coming counterpart on the Finnish team, Niskanen’s World Cup results haven’t been quite as good, but for a 22-year-old, they’re nothing to brush off. She’s cracked the top-30 a half-dozen times on the World Cup this year, including 10th in Saturday’s 10 k classic in Otepaa, and she also owns a gold medal from the 2010 U-23 Championships, in the 10 k classic.
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.