This week’s roundup truly is a weeklong affair: FIS World Junior and Under-23 Championships began on Monday in Erzurum, Turkey, as did IBU World Youth and Junior Championships in Kontiolahti, Finland. The action continued every day this week, and after literally dozens of races, North Americans came home with one gold and two silver medals.
In Erzurum, the big story was the complete dominance of the Russian team. No matter which way you cut it, the Russians were unstoppable. At an individual level, Sergey Ustiugov completed a sweep of the junior men’s races. At a team level, on one day they took five of six spots on the podium. All this came despite the death of a coach in the middle of the series.
U.S. Ski Team members Noah Hoffman and Sadie Bjornsen had the best North American performances in Erzurum, with Hoffman placing second and Bjornsen fifth in the U23 10/15 k classic races. Bjornsen and Eric Packer made the top 20 in the U23 sprints, while Hoffman was eighth in the 30 k skiathlon and Bjornsen, Jessie Diggins, and Rebecca Rorabaugh placed in the mid-teens in their 15 k event. The Canadians were led with top-twenty performances by Emily Nishikawa, Graeme Killick, Geoffrey Richards and Anne-Marie Comeau over the course of the week, but were unable to crack the top ten.
In Finland, Canada’s Kurtis Wenzel started the week off right by collecting gold in the junior 15 k individual race in his very first start. Then on the last day of competition, teammate Julia Ransom came close – within six seconds – of repeating his performance, ending up with silver in the youth women’s 7.5 k pursuit. In between, Wenzel, Ransom, and Stuart Harden all placed in the top ten. For the U.S., Sean Doherty, Tara Geraghty-Moates, and Ethan Dreissigacker led the way with top-20 results.
Junior acing also just began in Otepaa, Estonia, at the J1 Scandinavian Cup race. The first competitions were on Friday, with U.S. skiers Nichole Bathe, Heidi Halvorsen, Anika Miller, and Adam Martin all making the B Final. In Saturday’s classic races, Kern led the way in 14th.
Stateside, there must have been more than one race happening – but that would have been poor scheduling, because everyone was paying attention to the American Birkebeiner.
Spectators were given a teaser of what was to come in the Birkie Elite Sprints in downtown Hayward, Wisconsin on Thursday; Jennie Bender and Russia’s Dmitriy Ozerskiy took the wins.
On Saturday, the big show arrived as thousands of skiers raced their way from Cable to Hayward. The fields were especially competitive this year, but Americans still swept both podiums, with Holly Brooks and Tad Elliott taking home the sizable purses before returning to Europe for more racing.
The nordic combined World Cup hit Liberec, Czech Republic, where Bernhard Gruber of Austria and Aikito Watabe of Japan picked up wins; American Bryan Fletcher placed fourth in Sunday’s normal hill competition, the best result of his career.
Without further ado, here’s a rundown of FasterSkier’s coverage of all these events, with links to results.
FIS World Junior and U23 Championships, Erzurum, Turkey
IBU World Youth and Junior Championships, Kontiolahti, Finland
FIS Nordic Combined World Cup, Liberec, Czech Republic
Saturday normal hill competition: results
American Birkebeiner, Hayward, Wisconsin
Scando Cup J1 Races, Otepaa, Estonia