Note: This article has been updated to include comments from Canadians Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier, Scott Hill and Katherine Stewart-Jones.
Russia went out on a high note on the last day of individual racing at Junior World Championships in Val di Fiemme, Italy, with Natalia Nepryaeva and Roman Kaygorodov winning the women’s 5- and men’s 10-kilometer classic individual starts, respectively, on Sunday.
For Nepryaeva, 18, the victory was her first at the world championships and she did so by edging Sweden’s Sofia Henriksson by 2.7 seconds in 14:05. Another Russian, Anastasia Sedova rounded out the podium in third, 13.6 seconds after her teammate.
“I am exhausted, but winning a gold medal in a world championship is an incredible satisfaction,” Nepryaeva told FIS after the race. “I kept focused on my pace throughout the whole race, although I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to climb the last uphill. There was another girl in front of me and I kept skiing really close to her to keep control of my pace. I am really happy for the other girls in my team too, it’s a great day for Russia.”
For Henriksson, 19, the silver marked her first individual podium at her fourth Junior World Championships.
“I feel so happy today because I have been struggling for this medal for so long,” she told FIS. “In 2012 in Erzurum in the 5km Classic I finished fourth, only one second behind the bronze medal. It feels good to break up the three Russians.”
As Nepryaeva and Henriksson passed through the intermediate checkpoints, it was clear they were gunning for top two. Nepryaeva narrowly prevailed on a hilly and challenging course at Lago di Tesero, leading four Russians in the top six, with Alisa Zhambalova in fourth (+16.4), Germany’s Julia Belger in fifth (+24.2) and Russia’s Yulia Belorukova in sixth (+27.4).
In the men’s race, Kaygorodov, 18, won his first race at the championships in 26:36.9 for his first title (and podium) as well, beating Swedish runner-up Jens Burman by 5.5 seconds. Norway’s Petter Reistad was another 0.3 seconds back in third.
“I can’t believe it!” Kaygorodov told FIS. “In the first part I didn’t want to push too much, the snow was pretty slow and I wanted to save most of my energy for the last lap. When I finished this race I was totally exhausted, and for me this result will be unforgettable.”
Burman said he felt like he had good power and energy throughout his race.
“I think that was a good race for me,” he told FIS. “I don’t do anything in particular to get encouragement or motivation, I only think I have to go fast.”
France’s Jules Lapierre and Valentin Chauvin were fastest through the first checkpoint, but Kaygorodov picked it up for the last half of the race and put time into his competitors over the final kilometers.
Lapierre ended up fourth (+12.9) and Chauvin placed seventh (+18.4), while Sweden’s Simon Lageson placed fifth (+13.5) and Marcus Ruus took sixth (+16.9).
Monday’s relays were the final races on the schedule, with Sweden winning the women’s 4 x 3.3 k, defending their title from last year with Anna Dyvik, Henriksson, Maja Dahlqvist, and Jonna Sundling.
Canada placed 10th with Frédérique Vézina, Dahria Beatty, Anne-Marie Comeau, and Katherine Stewart-Jones. The Americans finished 12th of 14 teams with Nichole Bathe, Marion Woods, Stephanie Kirk, and Sloan Storey.
Norway won the men’s 4 x 5 k with Eivind Krane Heimdal, Reistad, Johan Hoel, and Eirik Sverdrup Augdal. The U.S. men placed 12th of 18 teams, with Adam Martin, Lars Hannah, Thomas O’Harra, and Patrick Caldwell Canada was 13th with Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier, Alexis Dumas, Scott Hill, and Benjamin Wilkinson-Zan.
Two Canadians in Individual Top 15
Izquierdo-Bernier (Fondeurs Laurentides), who’s living in France with his family until August, when he’ll return to Montreal, notched 14th in the 10 k on Sunday.
In an email, he xplained his goal was top 20 in one race at his first Junior World Championships.
“I had identified the skiathlon to be my best chance to accomplish it, but bad skies in the classic part ruined my race … it’s part of cross country,” he explained of the preceding race, in which he placed 57th. “Sunday morning I had no expectations, my only goal was to do a good race in classic and keep a steady pace for the 2 laps. Up to now this year in classic, I didn’t have any good race and the result of Sunday morning surprised me a little!”
Throughout the 10 k, he focused on managing himself and his effort.
“I knew that I had a good race but I was not expecting to finish in the top 20,” Izquierdo-Bernier wrote. “After the race I was watching the screen with the timings, as the other skiers were ending their race and my time was staying tin the top ones. As the last racer finished, I was very happy and my goal was achieved.”
Izquierdo-Bernier moved to the French Alps, specifically the Vercors, for his father’s sabbatical year.
“Last summer I trained at the training center in Québec and when I came to France I trained 2 months with some French athletes and had finalised my preparation alone with a personal coach,” he explained.
The lone Canadian man in the top 40, he shared a personal best in the top 15 with Dahria Betty of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA), who was 15th in the women’s 5 k.
For Beatty, 19, the result was her best in three world championships after she placed 20th in the freestyle sprint on Jan. 29. She explained in an email that her goal was top 15.
“I am really happy to have achieved that,” Beatty wrote. “The 5k classic was the race I was most looking forward to as I prefer classic races to skate races. I’d like to think I can be both a sprinter and a distance skier, and I hope that I showed that with my 20th place finish in the skate sprint the first day!”
Her plan for the 5 k was to start fast but relax on the climbs, then push hard over the remaining parts of the course.
“I didn’t push enough on the second last climb in the skiathlon Friday so I made sure not to make that mistake again today and went all all out up the climb at 3.5km,” she wrote. “All along I was getting splits that I was leading at my bib, which is what I was hoping for. It’s always great to cross the line in first and see your name with a 1 beside it even if you know it won’t last. I had the chance to sit in the winners chair for a minute too which is always great!”
Two Americans tied for the best U.S. result of the day in 26th: Nichole Bathe (University of Alaska-Fairbanks) and Adam Martin (Northern Michigan University). For both, it was their first top 40 at their first world championships.
“My goal going into to today’s race was to top 40 and to just feel like I was skiing strong and to really leave it all out there,” Bathe wrote on Sunday. “I didn’t know what place I was in while racing, I went off third so there where only two girls started ahead of me so I just went out as hard as I could and tried to hold on and set down a time that would hold to a certain extent.”
After breaking through with her first podium at U.S. nationals a month ago, Bathe explained that results like third-place in the nationals classic sprint gave her confidence, but she also knew she would be racing at another level internationally.
“I knew … these girls … are the fastest juniors in the world and that it was going to be tough to even hang in there,” she wrote. “I’m feeling pretty good about where I am at, I’m looking ahead to the next couple weekends of racing leading into the end of the collegiate year knowing that those are going to be some tough races so I’m just gonna try and keep everything going for another month and a half and hope that it all goes well.”
Martin wasn’t sure how he’d stack up in the 10 k after placing 40th in the preceding 20 k skiathlon on Jan. 31. He thought top 30 “would be cool,” but tried not to dwell on results — instead focusing on having a strong race in difficult conditions. He remembered seeing the thermometer read 8 degrees Celsius (46 Fahrenheit) at one point.
“The race was back seeded with the best ranked skiers starting last, so I tried not to think too much about splits, but they did help me gauge that I was picking up a few spots towards the end,” Martin wrote. “I was pleased when I saw that I was 26th. More so, I was happy that I was 1:24 off of the leader. While this certainly is a notable amount of time back in a 10k, it seems like a margin that I can hopefully work with.”
About 3 1/2 seconds after Martin, Caldwell (Dartmouth College) placed 29th. Two days earlier, he notched 10th in a 20 k skiathlon.
Woods, a University of Vermont freshman, placed 34th, and her U.S. teammate Storey (University of Utah) was 43rd.
Canada’s Katherine Stewart-Jones (Nakkertok) finished 36th, Anne-Marie Comeau of the Pierre-Harvey Training Centre (CNEPH) was a second behind in 38th. Also of CNEPH, Vézina finished 51st of 72 women.
Stewart-Jones wrote in an email that she was aiming for top 25 and felt good before falling on a downhill after the first 2 k.
“After that I really picked it up,” she added. “I have had a lot of fun so far. … I also improved my placings in every single race, so it is encouraging to see that improvement!”
Comeau, 17, wrote than her goal was to have fun and give 100 percent. She had already placed 21st in the 10 k skiathlon, and two years ago at Junior Worlds, she was 18th in the skiathlon.
“I’m happy about the result,” she wrote Sunday. “I felt good during my race and I gave all that I had! I think that’s important.”
Also for Canada, Hill (NDC Thunder Bay) placed 45th, Dumas (Skibec) was 1.2 seconds behind in 46th, and Wilkinson-Zan (NDC Thunder Bay) placed 66th of nearly 100 men.
“Going into this season I had my sights set on a top 10 at world juniors,” Hill wrote in an email. “Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling that great leading into the championships and I knew that I wasn’t going to get to the top 10 unless I was in good race shape.
Rain before his race, which made the snow wet and heavy and ruined the tracks on the hill made things tougher.
“I knew I wasn’t capable of reaching my original race goal but I was still hoping for a top 30 so I was disappointed with where I ended up,” he explained. “I have been disappointed with my racing in Italy but I really like the venue and courses, more than last year in the Czech Republic. This year I was solely focused on my racing and results compared to last year where I was more just trying to get experience. My season has been good up until now and I hope I can rest up and finish the season on a strong note at nationals.”
Among the U.S. men, Hannah (Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club) finished 57th in the 10 k and Cole Morgan (University of Vermont) was 68th.
- 2014 Junior World Championships
- Adam Martin
- Alexis Dumas
- Anastasia Sedova
- anne-marie comeau
- Benjamin Wilkinson-Zan
- Cole Morgan
- Dahria Beatty
- frederique vezina
- Jens Burman
- Junior World Championships
- Katherine Stewart-Jones
- Lars Hannah
- Marion Woods
- Natalia Nepryaeva
- Nichole Bathe
- Patrick Caldwell
- Petter Reistad
- Ricardo Izquierdo-Bernier
- Roman Kaygorodo
- Scott Hill
- Sloan Storey
- Sofia Henriksson
- Stephanie Kirk
- Thomas O'Harra
- Val di Fiemme
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.