The first race of the season is a good one to get the kinks out. You don’t have to tell that to a few top contenders in Friday’s International Ski Federation (FIS) races in Bruksvallarna, Sweden.
Not only did Johan Olsson snatch the victory by less than half a second in a season-opening 10-kilometer classic race, but husband-wife duo Emil Jönsson and Anna Haag swapped timing chips and caused a lot of commotion in the timing shack.
Calle Halfvarsson dominated the men’s 10-kilometer classic race, but lost out on first by four-tenths of a second. The stadium announcer, Kjell-Erik Eriksson, took the blame.
“As a speaker, I generally have a good handle on everybody’s times,” Eriksson wrote on his website, Sweski.com.
“I was sure Calle was going to win when he came into the stadium. At the last turn, he was clearly in the lead. Johan Olsson was 11 seconds behind, and at one point he was 18 seconds behind. That’s why I called out Calle as the winner as early as the start of the final straight stretch,” he explained.
“Calle wanted to give the spectators a little extra, he slowed down and just rolled across the finish, but that cost him the victory. Johan Olsson raced the last straight stretch as if it was an individual sprint race, and he won by less than half a second. … I take the blame for that, if it helps people sleep better tonight.”
Halfvarsson, 25, assumed full responsibility, telling Aftonbladet that it was “ridiculous” of himself. “It’s my fault,” he said, according to a translation.
“I was leading by 20 seconds and thought I could [lollygag] towards the finish. I thought I’d be cool and it was a bit cocky to slide into the finish,” he said.
Olsson, 34, said he felt a little sorry for Halfvarsson.
“I was in the stadium when I heard that Kjell-Erik said Calle stopped [skiing],” he told SportExpressen. “So I realized that I could pick on him with a hefty spurt.”
He added that he was a bit surprised with his result.
“It feels really nice,” he said, according to a translation. “You can ask my teammates — they know I have not been in shape. It’s almost as if I was starting to wonder if I did something wrong. But when the bib number goes on … it felt a lot better.”
Friday’s winner in Beitostølen, Martin Johnsrud Sundby had this to say in response to Olsson’s supposed poor form: “Has Johan Olsson ever claimed to be feel fit and prepared ahead of a race? WTF,” Sundby he told SportExpressen. “The day he does, the rest of us might as well not even bother to start.”
Sweden swept the top 18 with Lars Nelsson finishing third, 22.5 seconds behind Olsson and 22.1 behind Halfvarsson. Daniel Richardsson was another 5.6 seconds back in fourth and Jesper Modin took fifth, 7.9 seconds later.
“Has Johan Olsson ever claimed to be feel fit and prepared ahead of a race? WTF. The day he does, the rest of us might as well not even bother to start.” — Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby, reacting to Olsson’s statement after his Bruksvallarna win, after Sundby won Friday’s FIS opener in Beitostølen, Norway
Apparently Jönsson and Haag are so connected that they even share timing chips, causing a major mixup for the timing crew.
Jönsson had marked the chips with each their names, but he inadvertently switched the chips so that they had the wrong name. Haag discovered the mistake after finishing and was mostly just happy not to get DQed. However, she got no splits skiing with Jönsson chip, Eriksson noted. Jönsson was not listed as starting or finishing — but the results did not indicate a disqualification, either.
Haag ended up third in the women’s 5 k classic, 50.4 seconds behind Swedish national teammate Charlotte Kalla — the winner in 16:04.4 — and 13.4 seconds back from 20-year-old runner-up Sophia Henriksson.
Kalla, who strained a back muscle a few weeks ago, said she wasn’t sure how she’d fare heading into Friday’s race.
She was pleased with her result.
“It feels great to start off the season in this way,” Kalla told Aftonbladet.
“Today I felt like I got the answer I hoped for,” she added, according to a rough translation. “I thought it went well in skiing. I had good skis and took hold. I knew that there were some parts where you can earn on kick-double poling so I tried to find the pressure there too. It’s one of my strengths.”
A first-year senior with Piteå Elit, Henriksson found herself surprised with her performance.
“I knew that I can go well in a classic race, but not quite this good,” she told Skidzonen.
“I didn’t have much courage, but I bet it all and it went really well,” she added. “It is important to get the confidence directly and of course fun with this kind of start.”
A 17-year-old junior, Sweden’s Ebba Andersson also surprised in 10th.
Sweden filled the top five with Emma Wiken in fourth, 51.1 behind Kalla, and Sara Lindborg in fifth (+53.4). Switzerland’s Seraina Boner was sixth.
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.