Stina Nilsson sent a pretty clear message Sunday: Charlotte Kalla isn’t the only Swede to watch out for this season. The three-time silver medalist at 2015 World Championships (in the classic sprint, freestyle team sprint and team relay), Nilsson, 22, prevented Kalla’s weekend sweep of the International Ski Federation (FIS) races in Bruksvallarna, Sweden, winning Sunday’s freestyle sprint ahead of Kalla in second.
“It was a good race and my tactics worked. I’m really pleased,” Nilsson told Sydsvenskan.se, according to a translation. “The best thing was that I had to make four good races and get used to the high speed.”
Nilsson, who placed second to Kalla in the 10 k freestyle on Saturday, was pleased about the progress she made this offseason.
“I have become more durable and can withstand longer distances,” she explained.
While nobody likes to lose, Kalla, a 28-year-old 2015 world champion in the 10 k skate, was gracious after the race. She reached the final as a lucky loser after finishing fourth in her semifinal. Ida Ingemarsdotter fell short in the semis and did not advance.
The favorite to win, Falk moved to the front of the final around a long outside corner, but found herself fourth coming toward the finish. Nilsson entered the stadium first to win easily, while Kalla held off Falk by one-hundredth of a second, according to VG.
“I have competed three consecutive days in Bruksvallarna and to [finish with] a sprint race was important,” Kalla told Sydsvenskan. “I am super happy with second place in the final with so many talented skiers … [but] the races here did not have the same [level of competition] as the World Cup. Then, the heat will be on from the quarterfinals.”
Forty three women raced in Bruksvallarna on Sunday, hailing from five different countries (Sweden, Slovenia, Norway, Latvia, and Great Britain).
After qualifying in second, 0.93 seconds behind Sweden’s qualifier winner Linn Sömskar, Falk reached the podium. Behind her in the all-Swedish final, Jonna Sundling placed fourth, Maja Dahlqvist was fifth and Sömskar finished sixth.
In the men’s race, 22-year-old Norwegian Havard Solås Taugbøl upset the Swedes on their home turf, beating Karl-Johan Westberg, of Sweden’s Boraas ski club, by millimeters.
According to VG, coming into the homestretch, it appeared Westberg had won it ahead of Swedish national-team member Teodor Peterson. But Taugbøl knew differently: “It was me! It was me!” he shouted across the finish. And it was: he edged Westberg by nine-hundredths of a second. Peterson was third, 0.23 seconds back.
“It’s nice to get a win so early in the season,” Taugbøl told VG. “I’m not used to beating people like [Sweden’s Emil] Jönsson and Peterson and stuff.”
The qualifying winner, Simon Persson of Sweden placed fourth (+0.47), Jönsson finished fifth (+1.12), and 20-year-old Even Northug of Norway placed sixth (+7.06). Northug lost contact with the leaders early and entered the stadium after them, yet sixth was a big jump from his 15 k freestyle finish on Saturday, when he was 76th.
“I thought he was the best in classical, but he is also good in skating,” Taugbøl said of Even, Petter Northug’s youngest brother.
Northug’s other younger brother, Tomas Northug, 25, led his semifinal into the stadium, but soon found himself in third behind Jönsson and Persson. He ended up fifth and did not advance to the final, while Taugbøl narrowly made it through as a lucky loser in third in that heat.
Nearly 100 men competed in the sprint from seven different nations (including Slovakia, Italy, Australia, and Iceland).
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.