(Above: Complete race video of inaugural Cross-Country Cross event at the 2016 Youth Olympic Games. To view on YouTube, click here.)
Bumps? Jumps? An uphill and downhill slalom? While racing through an obstacle course on skis is challenging enough on its own, competitors at the 2016 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Lillehammer, Norway, maneuvered around obstructions and other racers as well last Saturday, Feb. 13, for the opening event: the Cross-Country Cross (XCX) 1.4-kilometer freestyle sprint.
Beyond ‘bumps,’ the YOG’s first-race event competition also differed in sprint brackets. After racing a qualifier, the top-30 athletes advanced to one of three semifinals.
The top two finishers in each semifinal then automatically advanced to the sprint final. The sprint final totaled 10 skiers: the two winners from each semi-final, as well as two lucky losers from the two fastest semifinals.
Once on course, four 1.5-meter high ‘bumps’ greeted the athletes a little over 100-meters from the start. Competitors then cruised into a sharp lefthand turn, followed by a sharp righthand turn through a part of the course called ‘The Snake.’
After The Snake, skiers tackled the course’s first major climb. In the following descent, racers spent some hang time while passing over a 1-meter high drop.
With increased speed, competitors soared into the second major incline on course, as well as another series of three 1.5-meter high rollers and a 0.5-meter high drop.
The next course challenge tested athlete’s coordination and balance during an alternating ‘bumps’ section. The section prompted many skiers to take on a classic striding arm and leg swing movement.
After a tight hairpin turn, athletes then worked their climbing strength and stamina in an uphill slalom. Immediately upon cresting the top of the incline, competitors descended into a downhill slalom.
With no major climbs left, racers worked their way over another jump and one final set of 0.4-meter high rollers before the flat 100-meter sprint to the finish.
Sweden’s Moa Lundgren proved most adept on course. She remained unchallenged by any competitor all day, winning the qualifier in 3:27.59, as well as her semifinal and eventually the final in a time of 3:26.36.
Finishing 1.7 seconds behind Lundgren was Swedish teammate, Johanna Hagstrøm.
Rounding out the women’s top three was French skier Laura Chamiot-Maitral who crossed 3.21 seconds after Lundgrun.
Two North Americans competed in Saturday’s XCX event for the first time, American Hannah Halvorsen and Canada’s Annika Richardson.
Halvorsen qualified in 10th, 16.45 seconds back from Lundgren. She then advanced to semifinal 3, where she raced in third behind Chamiot-Maitral and Germany’s Anna-Maria Dietze until the uphill slalom.
Losing steam during the climb, Halvorsen moved into fourth, while China’s Chi Chunxue cranked her way into third. Hot on Halvorsen’s heels through the slalom gates was Russia’s Yuliya Petrova.
As the women came through the final bumps, Halvorsen moved to the outside right and Petrova gained momentum in the middle lane.
Halvorsen finished the heat in fifth, 1.7 seconds off of earning a lucky loser spot and advancing to the final, and 3.7 seconds off the heat winner Maitral-Chamiot (3:36.20).
After qualifying in 25th (+26.3), Richardson advanced to the first semifinal where she finished in ninth, 19.7 seconds back from her heat’s winner, Lundgrun.
“It went really really well all things considered,” Richardson said in an interview with Cross Country Canada.
“Definitely a lot of stuff I can work on with the technical aspects of the course, but I felt really strong in the last half of my heat going up the hill. I’m just really grateful to be here and be experiencing all the Olympic spirit,” she added.
In the men’s event, Korea’s Magnus Kim topped the results. He won the qualifier in a time of 3:01.45, his semifinal and eventually the final in 2:59.56.
In second place, 1.17 seconds off of Kim was Norwegian skier Thomas Helland Larson.
Rounding out the men’s top three was Lauri Mannila of Finland, finishing 2.28 seconds behind Kim.
Canadian skier Levi Nadlersmith and American Hunter Wonders nabbed the last two qualifying spots in 29th and 30th, respectively.
Wonders advanced to the first semifinal, where he finished ninth, 8.8 seconds behind the heat’s winner, Kim.
In his first international race ever, Nadlersmith also finished in ninth (+16.51) in the second semifinal.
“I felt really strong climbing a the top of the course,” Nadlersmith told Cross Country Canada.
“Going down into the last corner I had a weird line and I guess someone stumbled in front of me, so I had to do a quick maneuver to go around them. Then kind of after that I felt good, but lost a bit of my steam going over the last hill. I think for the most part I felt really good,” he added.
Day 2: Biathlon Begins
While some were shooting cupid’s arrows on Sunday, Feb. 14, biathlon competitors at the YOG shot targets. The second day of events included the men’s 7.5 k and women’s 6 k biathlon sprints at the Birkeneineren Biathlon Stadium.
On the men’s side, Emilien Claude of France won the event in a time of 19:01.5 after shooting clean during both the prone and standing stages.
“In lap three, in my head it was ‘maybe I win, maybe second’,” Claude said, according to an Inside the Games press release. “But when I finished and saw that I was first, I thought, ‘Wow.’ ”
Taking the second place silver medal, 7.1 seconds back, was Norway’s Sivert Guttorm Bakken, who missed one shot prone and one standing.
Third place and the bronze medal went to Russian racer Egor Tutmin. Tutmin skied the first of the three 2.5 k laps the fastest and shot clean during the prone stage. However, after two penalties standing, he finished 18.0 seconds back from the race winner’s time.
Two Canadians competed in Sunday’s event, including Ben Churchill and Leo Grandbois.
Churchill finished in 17th overall (+1:35.5) with one penalty (1+0). Grandbois placed 22nd (+1:58.6) after missing two shots during the standing stage.
The American men also had two competitors in Sunday’s 7.5 k sprint, Vasek Cervenka and Eli Nielsen.
Cervenka was the first American across the line in 36th place (+2:50.7) after skiing four penalties (1+3). Nielsen finished one minute and 7.4 seconds after Cervenka in 46th, (+3:58.1) after a total of six penalties (2+4).
With perfect shooting on Sunday, Germany’s Juliane Fruehwirt won the women’s 6 k sprint event, covering the 3 x 2 k course in a time of 18:23.5.
Norwegian skier Marthe Krakstad Johansen was the next closest contender for the gold medal. After missing one shot standing, Johansen finished in second place, 5.6 seconds behind Fruehwirt’s time.
Rounding out the women’s podium finishers on Sunday was bronze medalist Arina Pantova of Kazakhstan. After two penalties (1+1), Pantova completed the course 17.1 seconds behind Fruehwirt.
American Amanda Kautzer cracked the top 10 on Sunday and finished in 10th overall (+58.9) after skiing two penalties (1+1). U.S. skier Chloe Levins missed the top 20 by 1.7 seconds, and finished in 22nd overall with a clean round of prone shooting, but two standing penalties.
After cleaning both the prone and standing stages, Canada’s Gillian Gowling finished 30th (+2:27.8). Her Canadian teammate, Tekarra Banser finished 14.4 seconds later in 35th (2:42.2) after two penalties (0+2).
Day 3: Levins Just Outside of the Medals, Fourth in Pursuit
Monday marked the third day of the YOG and the second set of biathlon races with the 7.5 /10 k pursuits.
The women’s 7.5 k pursuit event saw Ukraine’s Khrystyna Dmytrenko at the top of Monday’s podium.
Starting 26 seconds back from Sunday’s race winner, Dmytrenko missed two shots during her first stage of prone shooting and then cleaned the rest of her shots to finish the 5 x 1.5 k course in a time of 25:12.9.
In a photo finish, Norway’s Johansen bested France’s Lou Jeanmonnot Laurent by one tenth of a second. Johansen finished 7.5 seconds behind Dmytreno after skiing four penalties (2+0+1+1). Jeanmonnot Laurent finished 7.6 seconds off of Dymtrenko’s time after missing two shots standing (0+0+1+1).
With perfect shooting, American Chloe Levins finished in fourth overall (+34.7), just outside of medal contention.
“The pursuit in Lillehammer today was a dream,” Levins said according to a US Biathlon press release. “As Susan [Dunklee] said earlier in the season, every race is a team effort. We had great skis and excellent conditions for today’s race. My race was made on the shooting range. Of course, it is bittersweet to be close to the podium in 4th position, but I shot clean and skied well, so it is an incredibly satisfying result.”
American Amanda Kautzer finished in 27th (+4:04.2) with a total of eight penalties (3+2+1+2). Canada’s Banser finished in 35th (+ 5:43.6) after missing five shots (1+0+2+2) and her teammate Gowling placed 45th (+9:45.30) after missing six shots ( 1+1+2+2).
After winning Sunday’s sprint, France’s Claude was the first skier on the Birkebeineren Biathlon Stadium’s 5 x 2 k course.
Starting 7.0 seconds later was Monday’s eventual race winner and Sunday’s silver medalist, Bakken of Norway. Bakken missed four shots (1+1+1+1), but ultimately came away with the 10 k pursuit win in a time of 28:10.7.
Moving up to second place after Sunday’s event was Russia’s Tutmin. With an extra penalty (0+1+3+1), Tutman completed the course one minute and 10.7 seconds behind Bakken’s time.
Taking the event’s bronze medal was Said Karimulla Khalili of Russia. Khalili shot the same as Bakken and finished 1:17.7 behind the race winner.
With two penalties (0+0+1+1), Canada’s Churchill crept into the top 10, finishing in 10th overall (+2:49.1). Cervanka of the U.S. improved his result from Sunday to 20th overall (+3:54.2) after missing just one standing shot.
“Vasek also made a great comeback with 95 percent shooting score and a good skiing performance,” U.S. coach Jean Paquet said in a US Biathlon press release.
“He looked more at ease on the skis and liked the fight on the course. He gained 16 positions by shooting well on the shooting range.”
The next North American was Canada’s Grandbois, who placed 25th (+4:40.7)after skiing five penalties (1+0+1+3).
In 46th was Nielsen of the U.S. (+8:13.4) with six penalties (0+2+2+2).
- 2016 YOG
- 2016 Youth Olympic Games
- amanda kautzer
- Anna-Maria Dietze
- Annika Richardson
- Arina Pantova
- Ben Churchill
- Birkeneineren Biathlon Stadium
- Chloe Levins
- Cross-Country Cross
- Egor Tutmin
- Eli Nielsen
- Emilien Claude
- Gillian Gowling
- Hannah Halvorsen
- Hunter Wonders
- Johanna Hagstrøm
- Juliane Fruehwirt
- Khrystyna Dmytrenko
- Laura Chamiot-Maitral
- Lauri Mannila
- Leo Grandbois
- Levi Nadlersmith
- Lou Jeanmonnot Laurent
- Magnus Kim
- Marthe Krakstad
- Marthe Krakstad Johansen
- Moa Lundgren
- Said Karimulla Khalili
- Sivert Guttorm Bakken
- Tekarra Banser
- Thomas Helland Larson
- Vasek Cervenka
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.