RacingWorld CupKriukov Basks in World Champs Glory; Wins Classic Sprint Ahead of Northug, Harvey

Avatar Alex KochonFebruary 21, 20133
Russia's Nikita Kriukov (l) celebrates his first World Championships gold in Thursday's 1.5 k classic sprint, just ahead of Norwegian Petter Northug (second from r) and Alex Harvey (second from l) of Canada in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Northug was second for his 10th World Championships medal, Harvey was third for his second and Emil Jonsson (r) of Sweden placed fourth. (Photo: Glen Crawford)
Russia’s Nikita Kriukov (l) celebrates his first World Championships gold in Thursday’s 1.5 k classic sprint, just ahead of Norwegian Petter Northug (second from r) and Alex Harvey (second from l) of Canada in Val di Fiemme, Italy. Northug was second for his 10th World Championships medal, Harvey was third for his second and Emil Jonsson (r) of Sweden placed fourth. (Photo: Glen Crawford)

FasterSkier’s coverage of the 2013 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, is brought to you by the generous support of Fischer Sports.

VAL DI FIEMME, Italy — Regardless of personal favorites at the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, the finishing image from the men’s 1.5-kilometer classic sprint final on Thursday had to make you smile.

Russia’s Nikita Kriukov threw back his head and embraced his first World Championships victory with open arms, Canadian Alex Harvey fist-pumped in third and Petter Northug sort of grimaced in relief after placing second for his 10th World Championships medal.

Norway’s reigning 50 k and 30 k skiathlon champion, Northug has won seven golds in World Championships distance events, so Thursday’s silver – his third at worlds – was about as good as he could have asked for. He turned to Kriukov to congratulate him and the two chatted during the victory lap.

Given Northug’s typical reluctance to congratulate anyone, especially not Russians, that really says it all.

He didn’t extend quite the same geniality toward Emil Jönsson, because, well, he’s Swedish. According to NRK, when Swedish commentators asked Northug whether he wanted to beat Jönsson more than Kriukov, he said, “That’s right.”

“I see myself as an outsider in a classic sprint so usually Emil and other sprinters beat me,” Northug elaborated in another interview. “So for me to win silver today, I’m very happy.”

Jönsson, who was fourth and 2.61 seconds off the pace, responded respectfully. “Today Petter showed how strong he is,” he told NRK.

But the storyline wasn’t Northug, who intentionally stepped ahead of Jönsson on the final descent into the stadium to secure second. “I looked at the photos [showing] I cut in front of him today; it is one of the sweetest feelings I’ve had in the championship of all times,” Northug told NRK, according to a translation.

Nikita Kriukov of Russia en route to his first qualifying win, which he achieved at World Championships on Thursday. He went on to claim his first world title in the 1.5 k sprint in Val di Fiemme, Italy.
Nikita Kriukov of Russia en route to his first qualifying win, which he achieved at World Championships on Thursday. He went on to claim his first world title in the 1.5 k sprint in Val di Fiemme, Italy.

Kriukov, 27, was the big winner on the first day of his third World Championships. He started the morning off by winning the qualifier for the first time at the World-Cup level, 0.3 seconds ahead of Kazakhstan’s Alexey Poltoranin, who went on to place 11th after tripping out of the start and breaking his pole in his semifinal.

“I’m really very happy,” Kriukov told reporters after the race. “I said for myself today I can win, and I did it.”

In the quarterfinals, Kriukov placed second to Norwegian Paal Golberg in a photo finish, then went on to beat Golberg by 0.52 seconds in the semifinal. Golberg was third in that semi and Jönsson was 0.31 seconds back in second.

A false start delayed the final, which Northug said he did intentionally.

“I did it to get more rest,” Northug told NRK after winning the second semifinal in a photo finish with teammate Eirik Brandsdal. “Every minute counts.”

Brandsdal confirmed he made a pact with Northug in advance. “One of us had to make false start,” Brandsdal said.

While Brandsdal went on to place sixth, 27.17 seconds after Kriukov, Northug was just 0.4 seconds back in second and Harvey 0.84 seconds behind in third. For Harvey, it was his first individual title after winning the classic team sprint with Devon Kershaw at the 2011 World Championships in Oslo, Norway.

2013 World Championships classic sprint winner Nikita Kriukov (RUS) with Norwegian runner-up Petter Northug (l) and Canadian bronze medalist Alex Harvey (r). (Photo: Glen Crawford)
2013 World Championships classic sprint winner Nikita Kriukov (RUS) with Norwegian runner-up Petter Northug (l) and Canadian bronze medalist Alex Harvey (r). (Photo: Glen Crawford)

“I’m in heaven right now,” the 24-year-old Canadian told reporters after narrowly qualifying in 26th. “It’s been a rough start to the day with barely making it into the heats, but then we adjusted the skis and then it was really fast.”

In the final, Kriukov patiently followed Jönsson’s lead up the first long grind. Northug positioned himself in third and Harvey tucked behind Brandsdal in fourth at the top while Golberg skied in sixth.

On the downhill before the last climb, Kriukov slipped by Jönsson, who worked hard to keep up. Harvey ran outside of the tracks in third, and along the final bump and ensuing stadium downhill, Northug moved into second – a few meters behind Kriukov and just ahead of Jönsson.

Northug then stepped into Jönsson’s middle lane, and Harvey followed Kriukov on the inside track. Kriukov held off his challengers to the finish, which were clearly defined after a double-pole showdown for first through third. Jönsson finished two seconds later in fourth and Golberg was fifth to help Norway put three in the top six.

“I gave everything in the last hill and hoped for a little gap,” said Jönsson, the World Cup sprint leader, after failing to best his third-place finish in the skate sprint in Oslo. “Unfortunately the other guys have good glide, catch me and glide past me. It doesn’t feel so good, but ah, it’s a sprint.”

Kriukov, on the other hand, felt great. Asked when he knew he had gold, he replied, “Maybe only on the last 100 meters. After second uphill I stay only third place, but I understand that after downhill, I keep in the group and my speed was faster than the other guys.”

And the fight to hold off Northug? “It’s good,” he laughed. “I like beating Petter.”

He and Harvey also chatted while skiing back and fourth for fans along the finishing stretch. According to Harvey, Kriukov wanted the three of them to line up for a 100-meter sprint to celebrate, but Harvey and Northug wanted to do recovery.

Men’s results

Russia's Nikita Kriukov high-fives a crew of proud Norwegian fans after edging their own Petter Northug in Thursday's 1.5 k classic sprint at World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy. (Photo: Fiemme2013)
Russia’s Nikita Kriukov high-fives a crew of proud Norwegian fans after edging their own Petter Northug in Thursday’s 1.5 k classic sprint at World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy. (Photo: Fiemme2013)

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Alex Kochon

Alex Kochon (alex@fasterskier.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.

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3 comments

  • Avatar
    davord

    February 22, 2013 at 1:22 am

    And let’s not forget that Kriukov is also the reigning Olympic champion from Vancouver, where he and Panzchinsky destroyed the three Norwegians in that final. No doubt Kriukov is the best double poler/finisher in the world right now. Once he and Northug stepped on either side of Jonsson, it was curtains for the Swede. Not really sure he is the best sprinter in the world now. Great in the regular season, but pulling a Buffalo Bills in the big races. Pity for Poltoranin, he would have made it an even better final. He’ll have two more big chances, especially the 50km…

  • Avatar
    cuttsy

    February 22, 2013 at 7:28 am

    The only two World Cup sprint races where Kriukov has done better than Emil this year are in the Kuusamo Mini-Triple and Sochi. In Sochi, Emils Ski bag got lost by the airlines so they didn’t even have their own skis prepped for the race. Take it or leave it, having your personal skis makes a huge difference in a race. Aside from that, nobody on the world cup circuit has had a more consistently high-performing Sprint season, so I think your point about him not being the best is a little misguided.

    Maybe this is just a small little side-note but there’s no question that Kikkan Randall is the best sprinter in the world, yet she didn’t make it out of the quarterfinals at world champs. But, I don’t think anyone is discrediting her now? Wonder why that is?

  • Avatar
    Lars

    February 22, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    The olympic final was a disgrace the rest time for the racers in the second semi final was really short, Because they removed the b final and didnt extend the break between the start of the heat despite promising to do so. This gave that 2 Russians a giant advantage in the final.

    That said i think Kirukov and Jonsson is the 2 best classic sprinters atm. And Jonsson might be the best male sprinter ever.

    Randall is the best sprinter overall but she is not the best classic sprinter. So expecting her to win the classic sprint would be unreasonable. But i was a little surprised she didnt make the semis.

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