For the second time this weekend, a Norwegian skier was disqualified from an International Ski Federation (FIS) race in Beitostølen, Norway, and missed out on a victory because of it.
Despite a strong opening to Sunday’s 1.2-kilometer classic sprint, in which she won the qualifier by 2.22 seconds over Norwegian teammate Ingvild Flugstad Østberg and topped every heat thereafter, Maiken Caspersen Falla was ultimately at the hands of the jury by the end of the final.
Facing off against Østberg, Russia’s 22-year-old Polina Kovaleva — who was third in the qualifier (6.44 seconds behind Falla) — another Russian Natalia Matveeva, and two more teammates, Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen and Barbro Kvåle, the 25-year-old Falla ran into trouble in the final when she moved to change tracks on a technical turn.
Due to the sharpness of the turn and traffic around her, Falla explained she had no choice but to ski over her good friend Østberg’s skis.
“I saw that I [cut off] Ingvild in the bend, but what else could I have done?” Falla said in a post-race interview with Langrenn, according to a translation. “I was either running up the back of Astrid or into Ingvild.”
While she finished first in the final, Falla was ultimately relegated to last because of the move. She didn’t regret her decision, telling NRK, “I would do it again, because I did not have anywhere else to go.”
She added that the DQ should give her some added fuel moving forward, especially two weeks out from the World Cup opener in Kuusamo, Finland.
“It’s too bad to be disqualified” she told Langrenn. “It was one of best races I’ve done in three or four years. I can use this as extra motivation when I go [to the] World Cup.”
With Falla out, the women’s sprint victory went to the second racer across the line: Russia’s 29-year-old Matveeva, who finished second in both her quarterfinal and semifinal. Skisport.ru noted classic isn’t usually Matveeva’s strength. In 2007, she won a World Cup skate sprint in Duesseldorf, Germany, and last season, she reached the World Cup podium for the first time in three years when she placed second in a skate sprint in Rybinsk, Russia.
Despite the mishap with Falla, Østberg was two-tenths of a second from the win on Sunday, finishing just behind Matveeva in second. After reaching the final as a lucky loser from her semifinal, Jacobsen led out of the start, but slipped back on the climbs and ended up 2.9 seconds back in third. Kovaleva placed fourth (+8.3) and Kvåle was fifth (+12.1). The winner of last year’s classic sprint in Beitostølen, Kvåle, 23, was a lucky loser twice over, narrowly advancing from both the quarterfinals and semifinals with fast-enough times.
Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.