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It’s a win to open the World Cup season in Ruka, Finland for twenty-year-old Linn Svahn of Sweden. Svahn’s victory in the 1.4-kilometer classic sprint on Friday capped a clean streak of first place spots streaming from the quarterfinals through the semis and onto the podium’s top step. Last season, Svahn burst onto the World Cup scene and won the overall sprint World Cup becoming the youngest-ever winner of an individual crystal globe. She matched those high expectations today.
Svahn, however, was not the lone Swede in the finals as she raced amongst three other teammates including Maja Dahlqvist, Jonna Sundling, and Emma Ribom.
Dahlqvist and Sundling finished in second and third, respectively, to make it an all Swedish podium. Norway’s Lotta Udnes Weng placed fourth, and Ane Appelkvist Stenseth, also from Norway, fifth. Ribom placed sixth.
Stenseth was the day’s top qualifier, completing the 1.4 k course in 2:55.94, a full 4.10 seconds ahead of the second-place qualifier Dahlqvist. The Americans placed three skiers in the heats, Rosie Brennan, Hailey Swirbul, and Jessie Diggins.
Brennan notched a career-best sprint qualifier, placing 13th. The Anchorage-based skier was eliminated in the quarterfinals to place 17th overall.
“It felt pretty surreal to be racing today,” Brennan emailed. “I honestly didn’t know when I would again after the season was called short last year. It was very exciting to find myself on a start line again! Before and after the race things look a little different and there are a few more things I have to be on top of, but the racing itself is still the same. It was great to be out there pushing myself again. Knowing that I want to be ready to take advantage of every opportunity I get to race this year, I tried hard to be ready to go when the time came. I am very happy with my feelings in the sprint today. I had fantastic skis and felt strong. I am disappointed that I wasn’t able to maneuver around people better in my heat, but have to be satisfied with the feelings and hope I can continue to work on sprint tactics. I am really looking forward to some distance races now!”
Swirbul, in her first season as a U.S. Ski A-Team member, placed fourth in the second heat to end her day ranked 18th overall. Also based in Anchorage, Swirbul qualified in 16th and finished 18th overall for a career-best sprint result. Before Friday’s sprint, Swirbul’s top World Cup result was a 21st in last year’s 10 k skate in Davos, Switzerland.
Diggins was eliminated in the first heat after placing fifth, 4.57 seconds behind Svahn. She finished 24th overall. The 2018 Olympic gold medalist has often placed in the mid-20s in Ruka’s classic sprint. She has noted to FasterSkier in the past that the first weekend of World Cup racing allows her to find her racing legs before the season begins in earnest with the Tour de Ski.
Also for the U.S., Sophie Caldwell Hamilton was 33rd, Julia Kern 40th, Katharine Ogden 66th, and Caitlin Patterson 71st.
Racing continues tomorrow in Ruka with a 10 k classic for the women.
Post-race interview with U.S. Ski Team Head Coach Matt Whitcomb.
Sophie Caldwell Hamilton racing during qualification at the 2020 Ruka, Finland classic sprint. Photo: NordicFocus
Post-Race press conference interview with Linn Svahn:
Jason lives in Bend, Ore., and can often be seen chasing his two boys around town. He’s a self-proclaimed audio geek. That all started back in the early 1990s when he convinced a naive public radio editor he should report a story from Alaska’s, Ruth Gorge. Now, Jason’s common companion is his field-recording gear.