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For the fourth year in a row, the city of Dresden, Germany was ready to host an exciting city Freestyle sprint on a 1.3-kilometer course. A race that usually attracts fans from all over the world, for the second year in a row could not allow spectators on the course due to Covid. The last race before the holiday break, the skiers were ready to have fun, and enjoy the challenging and icy course.
“It is so amazing, it is one of my favorite races of the year. I love it, it’s fast and furious. it is going to be an exciting day of racing,” Julia Kern told FIS before the heats started. Kern’s family has roots in Germany, and she is often celebrated in Dresden as if she were a native.
On the women’s side, World Cup Sprint Leader, Maja Dahlqvist (SWE) was ready to continue her great start to the season. On a win-streak, has been on the top step of the podium in each of the last four individual sprint races, including the first three of this season. A fifth win would make Dahlqvist the second woman to win five consecutive individual sprint events in the World Cup, after Norwegian legend Marit Bjørgen, who won 11 in a row from December 2003 to January 2005.
Sweden’s Jonna Sundling set the mark in the qualifier, finishing the top spot in a time of 2:29.52. The American women placed four in the top-30 in qualification, with Hailey Swirbul leading the way in 7th(+2.39), followed by Kern in 10th (+3.49), Jessie Diggins in 17th (+4.87), and Hannah Halvorsen in 25th (+6.82).
In the first heat of the women’s sprint, Swirbul stayed in contact with the lead pack until the final 100 meters. In the final straightaway, Swirbul pushed to the line to cross fourth in her heat. Anamarija Lampic (SLO) and Kristine Stavås Skistad (NOR), who qualified in 6th and 9th, respectively, were the top two finishers in the heat.
In the second heat, Kern (USA) raced alongside Dahlqvist, who comfortably cruised through the heat to take the win ahead of Italy’s Greta Laurent. Kern solidly maintained her position within contact with the leaders throughout the two-lap course, but finished fifth in the heat, unable to advance.
In the third heat, Hannah Halvorsen (USA) faced the top qualifier, Sundling, who won the classic sprint at last year’s World Championships in Oberstdorf, GER. Navigating through chaos, Halvorsen was able to stay on her feet after a crash between Nathalie von Siebenthal (SUI) and Magni Smeedas (NOR) leaving a group of three to fight for the top two spots. Sundling was able to cross the finish line comfortably in first, with a photo finish between Halvorsen and Jasmin Kahara (FIN) behind her. Halvorsen was able to outstretch Kahara in the bootslide, taking the second spot in her heat, and punching her ticket to the semi-final.
Diggins (USA) raced in the final quarter-final heat, staying with the main pack throughout the laps, pushing up from 5th to 3rd as they headed into the final stretch. Diggins finished third in the heat but was able to advance to the semi-finals as a lucky loser. Lena Quintin (FRA) and Moa Lundgren (SWE) were the two automatic qualifiers from this round.
In the first semi-final, Sundling and Dahlqvist set a steady-pace with the pack staying together throughout both laps. Pulling to the front in the final 500 meters, Dahlqvist and Sundling cruised to the finish, crossing first and second, respectively. On their tails, Lampic and Skistad slid over the line in a photo finish, just 0.35 seconds behind Dahlqvist. Both these women advanced to the final as lucky losers.
The two Americans, Diggins, and Halvorsen both raced in the second semi-final heat, which featured the inevitable twists and turns of sprinting. At the lap, 23-year-old Lea Quintin of France, who had qualified in second, snapped her left pole, leaving her searching for a new one while the pack skied away.
Meanwhile, Diggins and Halvorsen patiently waited near the back of the pack until the final straightaway where both made strong moves to contend for a spot in the final. Halvorsen powered from fifth place into a position to fight for second, but ended up just 0.27 seconds behind Eva Urevec of Slovenia who took the second automatic qualifier position. Diggins crossed a ski length behind Halvorsen, each less than a second behind Mathilde Myhrvold (NOR) who won the heat.
The final consisted of two Norwegians, two Swedes, and two Slovenian skiers fighting to claim the Dresden sprint title.
Racing was tight and tactical, with all six women skiing together through the first loop. Dahlvquist and Sundling led the whole way, controlling the pace at the front. In the final 100m, Dahlvquist started to make her move, creating a small gap between herself and the field, to win in a time of 2:33:36. Sundling crossed just behind (+0.43) with Lampic closing fast for third (+0.64) to round out the top 3. Skistad ended her day in fourth (+1.64), with Myrhvold in fifth (+3.03) and Urevc in sixth (+6.15).
The Americans put together an outstanding day overall with all four women finishing inside the World Cup points. After final rounds were decided, Halvorsen ended her day in seventh, a career-best result. Coming off a horrific accident in November, 2019, Halvorsen showed she is back on form in Dresden.
Introspective and progress-oriented, Halvorsen spoke to her day in Dresden, and how it helped her take a step forward with confidence in her ability to race into the semis and beyond.
Diggins finished right behind Halvorsen in 8th place in the final rankings, while Swirbul ended her day in 16th and Kern ranked 22nd.
Two Canadian women raced the qualifier but did not advance into the rounds. Maya Macisaac-Jones led the Canadians in 52nd (+11.31), while Dahria Beatty finished 58th (+14.16).
With the win, Dahlvqist has taken over the overall World Cup lead from teammate – and roommate – Frida Karlsson (SWE). Diggins currently sits in 5th, behind teammate Rosie Brennan who ranks 4th. Now with a week off for Christmas, the teams will get some rest as they gear up for the Tour de Ski which starts on December 28th.
When asked about taking over the World Cup Lead from her teammate and best friend, Dahlvqist said in a FIS interview, “The most important thing is that it is still in our room”
Growing up in New England, Ian found his love for cross country skiing and running at a young age. As a lifelong lover of the sport, he fostered his connection to skiing as a coach for a local high school in Maine and a board member for the New England Nordic Ski Association. He's also a regular at the Birkie. In his free time you can find him on the running trails, ski trails, or just enjoying the New England outdoors with his son, Bear.