Reflections from Whistler 2023—U23 10km Free

Gerry FursethFebruary 6, 2023
Sunshine and a World Championship podium. (l-r) Izabela Marcisz (POL), Helen Hoffmann (GER), Margrethe Bergane (NOR). (Photo: Doug Stephen @vr45phtography)

Another day at Whistler and another day of great skiing. The day started just below freezing with a little new snow overnight, intermittent sunshine, no wind, and no snowfall until after the last skier finished.

The course was two laps of the Olympic Red 5km, the same course used in 2010 for the classic races. About 3km of the loop was the same as used in the classic 20km Monday and Tuesday. There is a big difference between the two techniques: in classic, when a relatively straightforward downhill is too fast to double pole, the skier gets a rest in a tuck, but those same sections reward free skating. Even the podium athletes admitted there was a bite to this course in free technique.

The women’s 10km put two new faces on the podium. Germany’s Helen Hoffmann won in 26:13, edging out Poland’s Izabela Marcisz by just 1 second. Norway’s Margethe Bergane collected her second bronze of the week, finishing 4 seconds back. Tuesday’s silver medallist Lisa Lohmann from Germany was fourth, 14 seconds back.

The USA put three women in the top ten without cracking the podium and it was a solid but not spectacular day for North American men. For the US, Sophia Laukli was best in fifth, at 17 seconds, followed by Novie McCabe in seventh at 40 seconds, Sydney Palmer-Leger in ninth at 43 seconds, and Kate Oldham tied for 39th at 3:22.

Canada had an interesting day. For Canada, Jasmine Lyons had another great day, placing 17th at 1:04. Liliane Gagnon was 27th at 1:58, then Amelia Wells in 31st at 2:24, and Marielle Ackermann in 44th at 4:12 back.

Once again, we will let the athletes tell their own stories in the interval start race.

Women’s 10 k Freestyle


The day: “My day was very great. I don’t expect that my race would be so good, and I am happy.”

The course: “The course is very hard, very hard.”

Visiting Canada: “It’s beautiful here, much snow.”


The day: “Oh my god, I’m really happy. I have silver. It was really beautiful and really hard to race. I’m really satisfied, I have this medal for all my team.”

The course: “I think this course is really difficult and really sneaky. This is Olympic course, so it have to be really difficult. For the skate and for me, it’s quite nice. I have long steps [one skate/v2 glide] so I felt quite comfortable.”

Visiting Canada: “Before these competitions, we were in Prince George and we did race there. For sure, I want to back to Canada, but probably more for chill and a little bit more than course and hotels.”


The day: “It was very, very hard, but very fun to race. I’m very happy with the medal.”

The course: “Oh, I really like the course. It’s tough, and I really like that.”

“It was a hard course, but very, very good conditions. In Norway, we have hard courses as well, so kind of the same like in Norway.”

Visiting Canada: “I had so much fun. I really like Canada so I hope I can come back someday.”


The day: “It was good. I was a little bit nervous and curious how it would go. I’ve been a little bit sick and coming off of that, so I was definitely happy to get a top five. I had big goals, but with how I’ve been feeling, I was really happy with how it went.”

The course: “It is incredibly hard. I’ve skied it a lot now, but not until racing it today did I realize how insanely [hard], you’re just grinding all the time.”

The profile looks like 3km of easy downhill: “You don’t feel like there is, it feels like there is only climbing.”

Lesson learned this week: “I’ve learned that you’ve got to be patient with racing. I’ve learned, that I can personally work on is skiing tactically, and this course has made me realize that. I’m really into climbing, but there’s so much more to racing than that. That’s something I want to start working on more.”

Favourite race this season: “I feel like I can’t say anything except the hill climb in the Tour de Ski. That was a pretty great day, and a lot of fun.”


The day: “It was pretty good. It was a fun fight out there and we had a lot of strong performances from the team, so I think overall a good day.”

My day: “I feel okay about it. I was hoping for a little more, but it was what I could do today, so I’m proud of it.”

Lesson learned this week: “I had a lot of practice in going through racing that was not quite what I’d hoped and trying to get past that and start fresh in the next race.”

Racing here: “It so nice. This is like a dream venue. It’s so beautiful, I thought today was supposed to snow or rain or something, this is a real treat.”


The day: “I had a pretty good day today. I started that first lap not sure how it would go, my legs were flooding a little bit from the last two races. The second lap, I caught a ride with the German Lisa Lohmann who ended up top three today. It actually turned out a really good race. I’m really excited how it went.”

The course: “I like the course. It’s a lot of climbing the first half, then it’s smaller, like gradual, some powerful V2 the last end of the course.”

Lesson learned this week: “Honestly, just learning that trust my training, trust that I’ve been doing this for a long time, and just find my strengths on the course and push it. Whatever happens, happens. If it doesn’t work out as planned, just try to find the positives in everything. Today, we had three women in the top ten, so that was pretty cool.”


The day: “It was a tough one out there. It wasn’t the race I was hoping for, but there’s another one coming up.”

The course: “Course was definitely challenging, it was quite hilly, but the conditions were pretty perfect, the grooming was awesome.”

Lesson learned this week: “Learned a lot about getting prepared for races, staying in the zone. Really learned a lot about how high the level is and how much I need to keep training and improving to try to keep up.’


The day: “It was really hard. The two rest days weren’t the best thing for me, my body was feeling pretty tired, and those uphills my legs were burning up, but made it to the finish. It will be a new day tomorrow.”

The course: “Very, very hard skate course. It’s a long uphill right from the start. You get some recovery downhill, but you go back up on the highest point of the course.”

Lesson learned this week: “I learned that maybe classic is getting way better for me. It’s been interesting racing with those fast girls, I’ve got a lot of experience now.”


The day: “It was pretty good. It was hard out there, it’s a tough course, feeling a little tired from the 20km. Overall, I had fun.”

The course: “It’s a lot of uphill. The first 2k are all work, you get a little rest at the end.”

Lesson learned this week: “I learned so much, it’s hard to think of one thing. Double pole, and learning to ski with the best.”


The day: “Today was pretty awesome. I’m really glad the weather held up for us. The skis were fabulous and we have a really strong team here that’s a pleasure to part of.”

The course: “The course is really high level, really well maintained and cared for these championships. It’s really fun, it’s really hard.”

Lesson learned this week: “I think I learned a lot about leading up to race, how important the little things are. I’m surrounded by an elite team that does those little things well, so it’s been awesome to get another window in that lifestyle from girls that ski on the World Cup, who went to the Olympics.”


The day: “Pretty bad, to be honest. It was pretty tough out there, my legs were not in it, my mind was not in it.

The course: “It’s tough. The hills just go on and on, and then there’s this long working section. You’re wiped from the hills and it’s really hard.”

Lesson learned this week: “I learned to just accept bad races. It happens, and sometimes it happens at the biggest event of the year. That’s tough and it’s mostly about having fun. So as long as you don’t get too down on yourself, you can just move on and learn from it.”

“Norwegian U23 Nationals”. (l-r) Lars Agnar Hjelmeset (NOR), Martin Kirkeberg Mørk (NOR), Jonas Vika (NOR). (Photo: Doug Stephen @vr45photography)
Men’s 10 k Freestyle

The men had the now-traditional distance podium sweep by Norway, although it is the first time it has happened here.

Martin Kirkeberg Mørk won in 22:52, a full 26 seconds clear of Lars Agnar Hjelmeset. Tuesday’s 20km winner Jonas Vika was 43 seconds back, part of a second ahead of France’s Gaspard Rousset and six seconds clear of 8th place.

The top North American was Whistler product Joe Davies in 13th at 1:04. Davies represents Great Britain, but still received huge support from the local volunteers. Wearing the Stars and Stripes, Gus Schumacher was 14th at 1:06, Zanden McMullen was 15th at 1:08, John Steele Hagenbuch was 19th at 1:16. and JC Schoonmaker was 29th at 1:43. For maple leaf-wearing Canadians, Rémi Drolet and Max Hollman tied for 23rd at 1:33, Sasha Masson was 32nd at 1:46, and Erikson Moore was 41st at 2:26.

The field was distinctly clumped, with many skiers only a couple seconds from better placings. This may sound easy from the sofa, but a look at the bodies lying in the finish pen makes it clear that skiers were giving it everything already.

Kirkeberg Mørk

The day: “My day today is superb. It’s a quite tough course, you have to hold a little bit off on the hardest climbs, and then go fast on the easier terrain. Especially on the first lap, and then on the second lap, if you did that, you can push hard. And that’s what I did.”

The course: “I like it very much. A lot of the second gear [one skate/V2], and I’m good at that. It’s a good Olympic course.”

Agnar Hjelmeset

The day: “Yeah, today it was really fun to ski. It was tough, but the conditions and the course here is very good. You just have to be a warrior out here.”

The course: “The course is really fun, a lot of uphills, and a lot of technical downhills. The conditions are very good.”

Pacing: “I don’t know, go fast everywhere and push. You just have to be a warrior and push.”


The day: “It was quite tricky conditions to be skating. The snow was like, it was hard to stand safe on one ski. I felt my calves starting to cramp up, I had to loosen my shoes halfway. I think I’m third, I hope I became third.”

The course: “The course is super tough, it’s harder in skate than in classic. I felt on the classic you could relax on the downhills, but here you had to work all the time.”

Comparing courses: “Back home, we have so many different tracks. This, it definitely could be a track in Norway, it’s really high standard, the courses are wide and it’s easy to ski fast. It’s fair for everyone.”


The day: “It was okay. Definitely felt a little bit fatigued. Not quite the race I was hoping to feel, but it went all right.”

The course: “I like the course, I don’t know if I had it in me today. It’s a course that requires a lot of fitness.”

Pacing advice from a local: “Ideally, it’s best if you can control the middle of hills, not get too greedy on those, and really gain time over the top and on the gradual, flattish climbs.”

U23 Championships at home: “It’s cool. It’s really nice that there’s so many people coming out to cheer that I’ve grown up with, or just skied with my whole life.”

Lesson learned this week: “I’ve learned that my fitness is good, but sometimes the mental game can get in the way.”


The day: “It was good. It’s a really hard race. As a team, we decided the best way to race it is to take it conservative the first lap. I was getting some splits, I was pretty far back, but I had in the back of my head not to freak out about that. I was hoping for a little more time, but overall pretty happy.”

The course: “It’s hard, I really enjoy it. It’s pretty deceiving, you think you’re going to get some rest on the second half of the course, the last 2k, but you’ve got to work all of that downhill and flat. There’s very little recovery on this course.”

Lesson learned this week: “I gotta get a little more fit. I’m coming out of the championships motivated as per usual. I’ve got one more year of U23’s, so I’m excited.”


The day: “Not great. I was trying hard, and I think the Americans were fighting the skis a little bit. I was pushing far inside on that first downhill after the fast steep pitch and slid out a bit. I’m happy with the effort, it’s hard racing out here.”

The course: “It’s a great course, I didn’t have the legs to push the hills the way I wanted to, but it’s still fun.”

Lesson learned this week: “I’ve had the big push of racing I’ve been doing catch up to me a little bit. It will be nice to get back and do a little bit of training, and hopefully get back into shape.”


The day: “I think it was not very good. It felt like I didn’t have anything to give today. No matter how much I tried, I started going one pace and couldn’t go any faster.”

Lesson learned this week: “That preparation is really key. I haven’t had the greatest preparation for a lot of the season. I have had better races here than earlier, but the preparation still was there. I need to be better prepared because everyone at these events is really strong and it takes your best shape to complete.”

Studying theoretical physics at Harvard while training: “I’ve been at school a lot of the year. School is good, I’m enjoying it a lot. I’m maybe falling a bit behind these couple weeks [Tour de Ski, Trials in PG, Whistler]. Overall, I’m enjoying it a lot, and really happy where I’m at with that.”


The day: “It was good. I woke up this morning, kind of scraped it together. The skis were amazing, absolutely rockets today. Shout out to the wax team for sending those out.”

The course: “It’s a hard course, you’re never going to feel amazing on it.”

Differences from last March at nationals: “The corners are definitely nicer, because you can actually get an edge, they’re not just pure ice into slush, that was super nice, you could really rip down it.”

Lesson learned this week: “This week? I need to do more volume before these races, that’s my big takeaway from this.”


The day: “It was good. I didn’t have the best body feeling day, but I executed everything I had, and I’m happy with the performance overall.”

The course: “It’s a hard course. I knew it was going to be hard, but it ended up being harder that I even thought. I got to the top of the first climb and I was just almost already shot from there. It’s fun, a flowy course.”

TV commentators say you are only a sprinter: “I would say it’s true right now. I’m definitely better at sprinting than distance. It’s definitely something that I want to change. I want to get better at distance skiing and hopefully, it’s coming along.”

Lesson learned this week: “I’ve learned we have a kick ass bunch of American juniors and U23’s. We had the best week, lots of energy, and I’m really excited for the future, for everyone here.”


The day: “It was not bad. The techs did an amazing job with the skis, we really had some rockets out there. I think personally I’m missing a little bit of energy. I think I drained myself in the last two weekends in Prince George and Whistler, but really motivates me for next year to be in top, top shape.”

The course: “This course is deadly. It’s one of the hardest courses that there is out there. You have so little recovery and you really have to place yourself to not blow up.”

Lesson learned this week: “I learned that we have a lot of work to do. We’re very much there, we just need a little bit more detail in training. I’ve learned a lot from this week, and going on to next year, I’m really motivated to get there.”

Results, live timing, and livestream/saved video are here at the event website. Keep scrolling to on the livestream page for older videos.

Nordic Combined raced after the 10km free. They got more traditional Whistler weather. (Photo: Doug Stephen @vr45photography)

Gerry Furseth

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