Nobody has had a better start to the season so far than Charlotte Kalla. The Swedish star finished off a three-race sweep of opening races in Bruksvallarna today with a victory in the classic sprint.
“I’m glad that it worked this weekend, and I hope I’ll feel just as good next weekend,” she told the Aftonbladet newspaper, referring to the opening World Cup in Kuusamo, Finland.
Before the weekend startd, she had a strained shoulder; now she has three more wins to add to her list.
In the qualifier it was Magdalena Pajala who turned heads, posting a 0.92-second win over Evelina Settlin; Kalla was 3.55 seconds back, followed by Hanna Falk. But by the time the final rolled around, Sweden’s biggest stars were back on the podium: Kalla, by more than two seconds over her usual sprint relay teammate Ida Ingemarsdotter, then Falk. Pajala was knocked out in the semifinals.
“How fast you have to go to be with the very best next weekend, it’s difficult to say,” Kalla told Aftonbladet. “After the past week, it feels like my old body is beginning to move. It hasn’t been the best week of my life – maybe I’m having an early midlife crisis.”
In preparation for Kuusamo, Kalla said she would go home and eat some of the smoked salmon she received as prizes.
In the men’s sprint, Calle Halfvarsson finally got his first win of the weekend after finishing a close second in both the 10 k classic and the 15 k skate. He bested Maciej Starega of Poland by 0.51 seconds, with Swedes filling the rest of the final; Teodor Peterson was third, +0.51.
It nearly didn’t turn out that way. Halfvarsson broke a pole in the qualifier and just managed to sneak into the heats, qualifying 23rd more than eight seconds behind Johan Edin.
“It just went bang,” he told Swedish tabloid Expressen, adding that he raced the rest of the qualifier with two differently-lengthed poles.
Another second back, and his day would have been over. But Halfvarsson muscled through, then won each of his heats en route to the final.
“I decided already yesterday that I had to win today,” he told Aftonbladet.
Peterson, the 2012 World Cup sprint champion, was impressed but not surprised by Halfvarsson’s performance.
“Calle is strong,” he told Aftonbladet. “For my part today, it felt good but he got me in the end.”
The surprise was perhaps Starega. The 24-year-old Pole has a few seasons of World Cup starts to his name, and one strong result: a seventh-place finish in the sprint in Asiago, Italy, last season.
“Thanks to all for the emotions, and I’m happy with this result, but have a calm head – the season is still in front of us,” he posted on his facebook wall.
The Swedes had a few messages for their Norwegian counterparts, including Petter Northug, who finally won a race in Beitostolen today after much doubt about his fitness.
“I don’t doubt for a minute that he will return to the level he was at before,” Halfvarsson told Aftonbladet. “He will be in the best shape of his life when he comes to Falun… It’s not fun to beat up on a shitty Petter.”
Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.