Eirik Brandsdal is the wild card to the Norwegian team for the 30K pursuit Sunday. While defending World Champion Petter Northug was a given, and Sjur Røhte, Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Tord Asle Gjerdalen have proven themselves in distance events, few had guessed Eirik Brandsdal as the last one. Unfortunately, the selection is a result of sickness: Petter Eliassen was originally selected for the 30K pursuit, but he is sitting out due to illness. Another hot guess, Eldar Rønning, opted out in order to focus on the 15K classic on Tuesday.
“Eirik was a good sport and agreed to race when asked,” said Morten Aa Djupvik, Norway’s national team head coach. “We had five spots in the race and wanted to fill all of them in a World Championship on home turf.”
And home turf indeed it is for Brandsdal, who grew up only minutes from the venue and has raced in Holmenkollen since he was in elementary school. Needless to say, Brandsdal is excited to race one more time in front of the famous Kollen crowd.
“I was given a unique opportunity to show my very best again. I think it will be amazing,” he said at the press conference Saturday morning. Brandsdal is currently also an alternate to the sprint relay, but doesn’t think racing the pursuit will hamper his chances if he is called on for the sprint relay.
For the other racers on the team, the pursuit is an important bid for the 4×10 kilometer relay on Friday.
“Theoretically, all spots on the relay team are up for grabs, but some names are better bets than others,” said Otto Ulseth, press attaché for the Norwegian men’s team.
Ulseth mentioned Petter Northug, as one of those safe bets, and said they will decide by Monday, but emphasizes that there are a lot of candidates in the squad. Biathlete Emil Hegle Svendsen is another strong candidate, but it all depends on how the other cross-country skiers do in the pursuit on Sunday.
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.