The 2022 FIS Junior/U23 World Ski Championships trip has been made possible through support from the National Nordic Foundation (NNF), which has identified this invaluable opportunity for developing athletes as one of its “Pillar Projects”. You can support the NNF and the next generations of America’s top skiers by making a donation here.
LYGNA, Norway – The second U23 event took place Saturday morning in the form of a 1.2-kilometer skate sprint. Qualification occurred under a sunny blue sky, with temperatures around 20°F, though moving into the heats it started to get cloudy as the wind picked up.
Moa Hansson of Sweden won the women’s qualifier in a time of 2:33.13. Abigail Jarzin (University of Utah/Salt Lake City, Utah) led the US women, finishing 43rd (+13.16). Behind her came Lucida Anderson (University of New Hampshire/Golden Valley, Minnesota) in 45th (+14.02), and Anabel Needham (Michigan Tech University/Houghton, Michigan) in 46th (+14.08).
Needham spoke to FasterSkier after the race saying, “it was a tough day, I was really hoping to possibly make heats, just felt a little tired. But the sprint course was so much fun. Super fast, and an actual sprint, so that was really cool.”
Rena Schwartz (Dartmouth Ski Team/Middlesex, Vermont) rounded out the US finishers in 54th, +17.95. For the Canadian women, Anna Pryce finished 35th, +10.98 back. Beth Granstrom was 44th, +13.35, Anna Parent 47th, +14.68 and Bronwyn Williams came in 52nd, +16.85.
Qualification for the men was won by Valerio Grond of Switzerland in 2:10.10. For the US, Gus Schumacher (Alaska Winter Stars/Anchorage, Alaska) and Noel Keeffe (University of Utah/Steamboat Springs, Colorado) advanced to the rounds, with 22nd and 29th places respectively. Jonny Hagenbuch (Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation/Ketchum, Idaho), the only other American U23 man competing, finished in 39th, +10.64 back. Canada had one qualifier in Pierre Grall-Johnson who finished 25th in the qualifier. Sam Hendry finished 56th for Canada, +16.54, Joe Davies 65th, +21.6 and Leo Grandbois did not start.
As usual, the women completed their quarterfinals first. The five rounds of heats saw a few broken falls, a crash or two, and the two lucky loser qualifiers coming from heat number three, Anna Grukhvina of Russia and Lisa Lohmann of Germany.
For the men, both Americans were competing in heat number four. Also in that heat was the second-fastest qualifier, Norwegian Ansgar Evensen, who won the skate sprint at Norwegian Nationals in 2020 (though notably Johannes Høsflot Klæbo did not race). Evensen broke the field apart on the first climb out of the stadium, with Czech skier Ondřej Černý keeping pace.
Those two remained clear of the field as they descended and entered the final “waffle hill”. Schumacher was in fifth, still in contact with Jaume Pueyo of Spain and Jan Stölben of Germany, while Keeffe followed. Into the finish straight, Schumacher executed a quick no-pole skate that brought him into fourth place and appeared to be a good lucky loser time. Keeffe finished 6th, +7.11 behind heat winner Černý (CZE).
“It was great, so excited to ski in a heat again,” said Schumacher after the race. Ultimately, heat five proved to be the quickest and Schumacher was bumped out of lucky loser position. Schumacher spent nearly the last month in Zhangjiakou, China, competing in his first Olympics. From there, he traveled with the US Ski Team to Helsinki. While the rest of the World Cup squad continued to Lahti for this weekend’s World Cup event, Schumacher flew to Oslo to meet up with the junior/U23 team.
When asked how the transition has been, Schumacher replied, “It’s incredibly refreshing, I can relax a lot more I feel like and it’s nice to be in Norway where there’s definitely more of a fun ski vibe, like it’s more about just doing it. It’s nice to be back with these guys, this team.” Comparing the wind today to the infamous gales of Zhangjiakou, Schumacher said, “It’s not as cold, but it is definitely picking up a little bit. But I’m fairly used to it, I’ve got my tuck dialed.”
With Canadian Grall-Johnson Pierre finishing sixth in his heat, all the North American competitors were out for the day.
In the women’s final, Moa Hansson continued her domination; after winning the qualifier, her quarter-final, and her semi-final, she took gold in the final as well. She was followed by bib 19, Monika Skinder of Poland. Nataliya Mekryukova of Russia rounded out the women’s U23 sprint podium.
The men’s final started with some drama as Jules Chappaz of France snapped a pole immediately out of the start gate. He quickly got a replacement and was able to move himself into fourth as the skiers entered the final hill. Though Grond (SUI) was out front, the pack was tight, and as they crested the hill, Chappaz (FRA) became tangled and fell, taking him out of contention. Grond held his lead to the finish to take gold. Runner-up was Denis Filimonov of Russia, followed by Magnus Øyås Håbrekke of Norway in third. Evensen (NOR) finished fourth.
Tomorrow the program switches back to the juniors in the morning, with a skate sprint for the U20 racers. That will be followed by a mixed-relay for the U23’s in the afternoon to conclude the week of racing here in Lygna.
World Juniors links and information:
Growing up in Washington’s Methow Valley, Ella was immersed in skiing and the ski community from a young age. From early days bundled in the pulk, to learning to ski as soon as she could walk, to junior racing, a few seasons of collegiate racing, and then to coaching, she has experienced the ski world in many forms. Now, as a recent graduate from Dartmouth College, she finds herself living in France splitting her time between teaching English at a university in Lyon, avidly following ski racing (and now writing about it!) and adventuring in the outdoors as often as possible.