ERZURUM, Turkey—In a come-from-behind performance, Nika Razinger (SLO) shocked herself, her coaches, and her competitors with a 7.8-second win in the 10 k skiathlon at Junior World Championships on Friday.
“This is a big surprise,” said Razinger after the flower ceremony, unable to contain her happiness. “It is unbelievable!”
Razinger and her coaches had been expecting top-10s from her, at best.
Razinger headlined an impressive 1-2-4 performance for Slovenia. Lea Einfalt (SLO) claimed silver and Anja Erzen (SLO) was fourth (+29.5) after bronze-medalist Nadezhda Shuniaeva (RUS).
In the classic portion of the mass start skiathlon (5 k classic + 5 k free), it appeared as though yet another race would be Russia’s to dictate. Elena Soboleva (RUS) and Elena Serokhvostova (RUS) led through the ski change zone at the halfway point, with Razinger sitting in seventh.
Razinger’s plan all along, however, had been to bide her time until switching to her stronger discipline. Once on skate skis, she to begin to pick off skiers one by one.
“We knew they couldn’t go with the best in the beginning, as the Russians are very strong classical skiers,” said Slovenian coach Marko Gracer. “We decided to go behind, if possible, to follow them.”
The Russians didn’t push the pace as much as the Slovenians were expecting—“this was good luck for us,” said Gracer.
“We expected very fast running from the beginning and they didn’t do that, and we were hoping [the Russians] weren’t so strong at skating—and that happened. At the last uphill we saw that we could get the medals, and it was unbelievable.”
Silver-medalist Einfalt was equally surprised with her result, as she had a fever as recently as Thursday.
As is becoming increasingly evident, altitude has played a big factor in the racing at Kandilli Ski Center. The Slovenian squad in Erzurum had an altitude camp in Pokljuka prior to arriving in Turkey, and the Russians also spent two weeks at higher elevation to acclimate their bodies to the lower oxygen at the World Juniors venue.
Comeau Delivers Top North American Finish In 18th
Throughout the women’s field, it paid off to start conservatively and pick up the pace in the second. Canada’s Anne-Marie Comeau and Dahria Beatty finished 18th and 23rd, respectively.
Comeau said the key to finishing well was “skiing relaxed at the beginning and give your max in the skate.”
Beatty said the lack of recovery made racing at Kandilli different than the skiing she’s used to.
“I feel like after downhills the legs are more tired, almost, because the lactic acid is still there.
Emilie Stewart-Jones (CAN) finished next for the Canadians in 41st, with Mary O’Connell (USA) behind her in 42nd for the top American result. Corey Stock (USA) was right behind her in 42nd.
Janelle Greer (CAN) was 47th and Emily Hannah (USA) finished 51st. Stephanie Kirk (USA) did not finish.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.