Team Sprint: Klaebo Captures Third Medal, Canada Impresses in Fourth

John TeafordFebruary 27, 2023

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Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR) approaches the finish line ahead of Italy’s Federico Pellegrino. (Photo: Modica/NordicFocus)

Three races: three medals. Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR) pursues the history that is available to him, but the history he pursues is likely to be marked with an Asterisk. He is one of the few skiers scheduled to compete in every event at these World Championships, and he is expected to medal in every event. Even so, Klaebo, himself, reminded reporters that Saturday’s silver medal in the 30 k Skiathlon was his first World Championship distance medal. He hasn’t always enjoyed this sort of dominance. And while many of the very finest skiers are here in Planica, many of the very finest are not. If Russian skiers were at these World Championships, Klaebo might still be collecting medals, but the racing would be quite different. As it is, the Russians languish at home, their exclusion from these championships (and from theWorld Cup tour) coming as a result of their government’s invasion of Ukraine. The championships go on without them, leaving predictable foregone conclusions: Norway the team to beat, Norway the favorite for victory, Norway on the podium, Norway with the gold. These are the World Championships of Cross Country Skiing . . . and Norway is the team to watch.

Antoine Cyr (CAN), and Graham Ritchie (CAN) celebrate their fourth place finish in the Team Sprint at the FIS Cross Country World championships in Planica, Slovenia. (Photo:  Modica/NordicFocus)

Team Norway—Klaebo and compatriot Paal Golberg—did not disappoint in the Team Sprint, holding off second place Federico Pellegrino and  Francesco de Fabiani of Italy, and third place Renaud Jay and Richard Jouve of France. Among North American teams, Canada was truly remarkable with Antoine Cyr and Graham Ritchie finishing fourth, while Ben Ogden and JC Schoonmaker of the United States finished tenth.

Men’s Team Sprint

Having watched the success of Julia Kern (USA) and Jessie Diggins (USA) in the earlier Women’s Team Sprint, it came as no surprise to see Schoonmaker following the example that had earned bronze for his teammates. Schoonmaker moved early to take the first position into the long rolling downhill at the beginning of the Planica course. Golberg and Jay were quick to counter the move, and Golberg went to the front of the pack on the climb with Jay in tow. Schoonmaker held third through the climb, but Golberg’s arrival at the front had subdued the field. Whereas the women’s race had gone full bore from the gun, the men’s race settled into a slightly more tactical affair. Schoonmaker handed off to Ogden in fifth place, with the pack tightly bunched.

For the next four exchanges, the Americans did their best to hang on, while the stars did battle at the front. Various accelerations, small attacks, defensive coverages, and tactical speedings and slowings led to the three fastest teams—Norway, Italy, France—pulling away from the field (pursued doggedly by Sweden and Canada). In the end, Pellegrino tried to impress his will on Klaebo in the final leg, but the Norwegian was simply too strong, too fast, too resilient. Into the final hill, Klaebo ignited the hint of promise that had been there all along, skiing away from Pellegrino in a final sprint.

Federico Pellegrino (ITA) skis into the embrace of his teammate, Francesco de Fabiani, earning silver in the World Championships Team Sprint. (Photo: Modica/NordicFocus)

Pellegrino’s move on the final climb had landed the Italians second on the podium in definitive fashion. France was third, while Canada—on the back of a strong final closing move from Graham Ritchie—moved into fourth place on the day just ahead of Sweden. The United States moved down to 10th to finish inside the top ten.

While much had been expected of Norway, it was Canada that exceeded expectations:

“This was team sprint together, and we’ve set up a game plan that’s worked for us in the past,” said Ritchie. “We decided to not change anything today and see if we could knock off another position and it worked out for us.”

“We have a good plan,” said Cyr. “Normally, I go in the first leg and move through the pack to get Ritchie in a good position so we push in the last lap. Today it really worked. Being out of the medal again is hard, but we will get there one day . . . It makes you feel like in a couple more years, we will get there.”

Ritchie summed up the experience of the Canadians: “I had one guy to reel in on the last leg, and it was a good one. I had the whole lap to try and catch him, and was confident that I could . . . Seeing Jouve over the last bump gave me the motivation. We can see [the podium], it’s right there.”

Men’s Team Sprint RESULTS

Federico Pellegrino (ITA), Francesco De Fabiani (ITA), Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo (NOR), Paal Golberg (NOR), Richard Jouve (FRA), Renaud Jay (FRA), the Team Sprint podium at the FIS Cross Country World Championships in Planica, Slovenia. (Photo: Modica/NordicFocus

John Teaford

John Teaford—the Managing Editor of FasterSkier — has been the coach of Olympians, World Champions, and World Record Holders in six sports: Nordic skiing, speedskating, road cycling, track cycling, mountain biking, triathlon. In his long career as a writer/filmmaker, he spent many seasons as Director of Warren Miller’s annual feature film, and Producer of adventure documentary films for Discovery, ESPN, Disney, National Geographic, and NBC Sports.

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