Rain and chilly temperatures didn’t dampen the rocket-fast qualifying round at the World Cup freestyle sprint in Dusseldorf, Germany, on Saturday morning.
In fact, with rain falling early in the day and never letting up, the course turned icy very quickly, and the rock-hard snow resulted in the already short and fast course becoming incredibly fast.
The short optimistically-measured 900 meter womens’ course was blazing fast. In just one loop around the mostly flat course the top woman, Riika Sarasjoa-Lilja (FIN) stopped the clock at just 1 minute 41.99 seconds.
She was followed closely by Russian Natalia Matveeva, who finished 0.52 seconds back, and Mona-Lisa Malvahleto (FIN), at 1.06 seconds behind.
The North American contingent was led by Kikkan Randall, who went out with the highest seed of the day, and finished 2.33 seconds back of the winner.
Randall finished 10th, and called the qualification round “challenging” in a post-qualification interview with Fasterskier.
“It’s a little icy, a little slow, and then the wind catches you,” she said.
As for the heats this afternoon, Randall was enthusiastic about the racing to come.
“It’s gonna be fast and furious for sure!” said Randall.
Her position places her in the first heat with Sarasoja-Lilja, as well as Swedish sprinter Hanna Brodin, Norwegians Kari Vikhagen Gjeitnes and Heidi Weng, and 30th place qualifier Lucia Anger (GER), which goes at 12:45 local time.
Chandra Crawford was the sole Canadian women to qualify, and did so in 17th place, 3.52 seconds back.
“It was fun,” said Crawford.
“It was so fast and icy, it was crazy fast.
As for the course, she called it “bumpier than ever and more narrow than ever,” but still fast.
“The number one tip I have for Dusseldorf is just – don’t crash, protect your space, do your best, and let’s have a clean race out there,” she said of the afternoon heats.
The tight times resulted in heartbreak for a couple of North American women, as Perianne Jones (CAN) missed qualification by just .2 of a second, finishing 32nd. Sadie Bjornsen was also less than a second from qualification, finishing 34th, 5.74 seconds behind the leader.
For the Canadians, Alysson Marshall finished 38th, while Dasha Gaiazova finished 46th. Americans Holly Brooks and Ida Sergent finished 51st and 52nd respectively, ending their day early.