FIS races are already being contested in Finland and Sweden this weekend, with most top Scandinavian racers sitting out but a few national-team members and others picking up their first victories of the season.
The competitions in Muonio, Finland, drew the most diverse field, including racers from Norway, Russia, Japan, China, Canada, Estonia, and Slovakia, among other countries. In the men’s classic sprint on Friday, the home team got a win from Ristomatti Hakola; he and Russia’s Alexander Bolshunov went 1-2 in both the qualifier and the final. Russia’s Andrey Parfenov rounded out the podium. In the women’s sprint, Anna Svendsen took the win over Russia’s Natalia Nepryaeva, with Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland finishing third.
On Saturday, racers moved up in distance. In the 10 k classic, Bolshunov – a U23 World Champion last season – bested Russian teammate Alexey Chervotkin by 20.6 seconds, with Andrey Sobakarev making it a sweep another 21.6 seconds back. Brian McKeever and Graham Nishikawa of Canada finished 56th (+2:10.6) and 63rd (+2:18.5), respectively.
Also in the men’s race was Maxim Vylegzhanin. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided on Thursday to strip the Russian skier of three silver medals from the 2014 Olympics for doping violations and ban him from all future Olympic Games. However, the International Ski Federation (FIS) has not yet taken any action since he and five other skiers were banned from the IOC, meaning that all six athletes are currently free to take part in non-Olympic ski competitions. In a press release, FIS stated that “the next steps will be the review by the FIS Doping Panel of the six verdicts upon the receipt of the reasoned decisions” but did not provide a time frame for these decisions.
In the women’s 5 k classic, Finland’s Krista Parmakoski posted an 18.4-second win over Nepryaeva, with Kowalczyk third again, +24.2.
Bruksvallarna, Sweden, hosted races on Saturday as well, with a primarily Swedish and Norwegian field but some other racers as well. Norway’s Chris Andre Jespersen topped the 15 k skate, posting a 31.4-second win over Simon Lageson of Sweden. Norwegian Tore Leren was third, +53.1. Canada’s Jack Carlyle finished 38th, +2:29.5. Petter Northug and his brother Even were in Bruksvallarna this week but decided at the last minute not to race, with Northug making his debut in Beitøstolen, Norway, next weekend instead.
In the women’s 10 k skate, Swedish national team member Emma Wiken bested Lina Korsgren – a long-distance specialist who finished eighth in the Visma Ski Classics standings last season – by 9.8 seconds. Berit Mogstad of Norway finished third, +15.3 seconds.
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.