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We’ve arrived at the final event of the 2021/22 World Cup Season and the second new event of the day. It was a fast and furious mixed team sprint in Falun, Sweden, happening just hours after the mixed team relay which ran in the morning. In the first iteration of this event, teams composed of one woman and one man raced six laps of a 1 k course each, making for 12 k of skiing total.
To keep things spicy, the last two teams in the exchange after the even-numbered laps 2 -10 were eliminated. So although seventeen teams started the competition, only seven made it to the finish. In order to limit the chaos, given the number of teams, there was no tagging in the exchange, just a finish line and a start line for the athletes to gauge themselves.
The atmosphere in the Lugnet Ski Stadium was festive as fans enjoyed the 45°F degree weather and sunshine. “I think this is very nice to be together with the men,” said Nadine Fähndrich of Switzerland, “it makes more team spirit between the men and the women.” She alluded to the feeling of both the athletes and the spectators during the mixed team relay in which Team USA I took the gold in an exciting race. “I’m excited for the [race] and to [enjoy] the atmosphere here,” she concluded.
With Team USA I taking the victory and Team USA II coming in 14th, the Americans did not enter a team in the mixed sprint event. Out of the seventeen teams that started, twelve nations were represented in the start list and only five nations made it to the finish.
The women started and as would be expected, Jonna Sundling skiing for Sweden I, was at the front. She was paired with Calle Halfvarsson who earned his first podium finish since 2018 in the 15 k freestyle on Saturday.
The first round of eliminations at 2 k took Estonia and France II out of the running. As Sundling concluded her second lap, she had created a +2.1 second gap and Halfvarsson seized this opportunity. Instead of waiting around for the rest of the field, he pushed hard and grew the gap to +3.84 seconds on his next 1 k lap. This same lap saw Benjamin Moser of Austria fly off the course on the corner descending into the stadium, taking himself and his teammate Teresa Stadlober out of the race. Latvia was also eliminated in that round.
Once Sweden I had made their move, it stuck. At 5 k they were +9.61 seconds ahead, at 7 k they were +22.2 ahead, at 11 k the gap was up to +26.84. After 23:05.91 of cumulative race time, Halfvarsson crossed the finish line waving a Swedish flag.
“It’s easy when I go with Jonna [Sundling],” he said to FIS after the race, “she is so fast, it’s no match.” For her part, Sundling said, “It was a little bit exciting before the race, how to ski, how should our tactic be… but it felt like we did a really good race and ended up first so it’s really fun.”
Rewinding a bit, the women’s third lap saw Fähndrich shoot off the course in the same fashion as Moser. Minutes later, Joni Maki of Finland I and Harald Østberg Amundsen of Norway I both went down on the corner entering the exchange area. A quick recovery by Amundsen ensured that his team stayed in the race but Maki and his partner Jasmi Joensuu were eliminated, along with Fähndrich and Janik Riebli for Switzerland.
The fourth round of elimination took out Slovenia and Finland II, though due to the tight nature of the eliminations, the women were starting unless it was clearly evident that they were one of the last two. Thus we saw Anamarija Lampic (SLO) battling Tiril Undes Weng of Norway II for second, even though Slovenia had already been eliminated.
Entering the 10th exchange and the fifth elimination, Sweden I was 19 seconds ahead, with Norway I and II duking it out behind. This meant that it was the twins, Tiril and Lotta Udnes Weng battling each other for their final lap.
With Canada II and France I eliminated, the men took off for their sixth and final lap. Amundsen of Norway I was just ahead of Martin Nyenget of Norway II, though entering the stadium Nyenget used the slip stream to move in front of his compatriot. With Sweden I well across the line in gold medal position, a tight sprint between the two Norwegians ultimately went to Nyenget, meaning Norway II earned silver and Norway I came away with the bronze.
Italy with Nicole Monsorno and Federico Pelligrino finished fourth. Sweden II ended up fifth, and Germany I came in sixth. Canada I (Dahria Beatty and Graham Ritchie) were the last team to avoid elimination and finish in seventh.
With the last race of the day complete, the World Cup season has come to a close. For North-American ski fans, Canadian Nationals will be combining with US Super Tour Finals for a culminating event series in Whistler, Canada. The racing begins March 20th and you can find more details about the event here.
Results: Mixed Team Sprint
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.