Finnish skier Iivo Niskanen and Norwegian Martine Elk Hagen have continued their families’ legacies on Thursday at the 2014 U23 World Championships in Val di Fiemme. Tackling a course covered in fresh snow, Niskanen, brother to Finnish superstar Kerttu Niskanen, and Hagen, cousin of Norway’s up-and-coming Heidi Weng, won their respective 10 k and 15 k individual classic races on the trails of Lago di Tesero.
Niskanen who skied the 15 k in 33:26.6, maintained his lead throughout the snowy course, clocking the fastest time at every split.
“It’s an unbelievable day,” said the Finn in a press release. “I kept a good speed and the last kilometers were really hard because I knew that [Sergey] Ustiugov was right behind me. It’s hard to beat a big champion like him and I tried to do my best to do it.”
Wednesday’s freestyle sprint winner, Ustiugov of Russia started his race with a fast pace but was unable to match the Finn’s form, and managed to place second, 17.4 seconds back. Despite his podium, the World Cup winner was disappointed that he was unable to out-ski Niskanen.
“I am not satisfied with the final result, but the result is where my level was today. I tried the best I could in this race. The last meters were quite hard for me but I still really tried hard anyway,” he said.
Norweigian Mathias Rundgreen was third, 27.7 seconds behind Niskanen.
In the women’s 10 k Hagen demonstrated her dominance on the hilly course that meandered through the Italian mountainside. Finishing with a time of 29:18.4, Hagen was ecstatic that she came out on top of such a strong field. “I didn’t expect to win and that’s why I’m so excited,” she said in a press release.
15.4 seconds behind Hagen was Celia Aymonier of France, who earned her first medal at a World Championship. “I’m so happy, it’s a good day for me,” she said. “I tried for the first place but I lost some time in the second lap however I’m really happy for the result.”
In third was Wednesday’s sprint champion, Elisabeth Schicho of Germany, who finished 30.3 seconds behind Hagen.
“It’s my second medal… unbelievable,” she said. “I am extremely happy.”
The U23 World Championships continue Saturday with the 15 k and 30 k skiathlons taking place on the trails of Lago di Tesero.
Lander Karath is FasterSkier's Associate Editor from Bozeman, Montana and a Bridger Ski Foundation alumnus. Between his studies at Middlebury College in Vermont, he is an outdoor enthusiast and a political junkie.