Nordic Combined World Cup (Seefeld, Austria): Individual normal hill/5 k
On the first of the three-day Seefeld Triple Nordic Combined World Cup, Japan’s Akito Watabe took the win and Taylor Fletcher was the top American in 28th in the individual normal hill/5-kilometer Gundersen on Friday.
Watabe put himself in second in the jump portion and started the 5 k ski race 21 seconds behind Norway’s Jarl Magnus Riiber in first. Watabe caught Riiber and beat him at the finish line, taking the win in 11:22.3 minutes, while Riiber followed 0.5 seconds back in second place. Germany’s Fabien Rießle followed in third, 32.4 seconds out of first, after starting the 5 k in sixth and 1:03 minutes back.
Norway’s Jan Schmid jumped to third and ended up fourth (+37.8). Watabe’s brother, Yoshito Watabe placed fifth (+47.2), losing one place in the ski race after jumping to fourth.
Two Americans competed, with Fletcher jumping to 30th and ending the day in 28th, and Jasper Good finishing 52nd (+3:45.6) after jumping to 49th. Both are headed to the 2018 Olympics next month in PyeongChang, South Korea.
U.S. SuperTour (Craftsbury, Vermont): Classic sprints
Kaitlynn Miller and Forrest Mahlen won their respective classic-sprint finals at Friday’s SuperTour in Craftsbury, Vermont.
The 1.4-kilometer classic sprint kicked off a three-day race weekend at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. On Saturday, the Craftsbury Marathon will be held (not a SuperTour event), followed by 5/10 k freestyle SuperTour races on Sunday.
Miller, of the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, started Friday by winning the women’s qualifier. She went on to win both her quarterfinal and semifinal before topping the final as well in 3:40.9 minutes. Also on Friday, it was formally announced that Miller was named to the U.S. Cross-Country Ski Team’s Olympic squad, which will compete in PyeongChang, South Korea, Feb. 10-25.
Kelsey Phinney, of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF), placed second in the women’s final, 0.63 seconds back, and Felicia Geisor (CXC Team) was third (+1.67). Erika Flowers, of the Stratton Mountain School (SMS) T2 Team placed fourth (+3.2), Canada’s Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (Rocky Mountain Racers) — fresh off NorAm Western Canadian Championships last weekend in Alberta — finished fifth (+5.46), and Alaska Pacific University (APU) skier Rosie Frankowski (who also made the U.S. Olympic team) placed sixth (+6.27).
On the men’s side, APU’s 24-year-old Mahlen qualified fifth, then won his quarterfinal and semifinal before taking the final for his first-career SuperTour win in 3:06.81. Ben Saxton (SMST2) initially won the qualifier and won his quarterfinal as well before placing second to Mahlen in the first semifinal. Saxton ended up 0.55 seconds back in second place in the final, just three-hundredths of a second ahead of Kevin Bolger (SVSEF) in third place (+0.58). Another half second back, Kris Freeman followed in fourth, just 1.09 out of first, Eric Packer (APU) was fifth (+1.39) and Canada’s Andy Shields (Lappe Nordic), who also competed at Western Canadian Championships last weekend) sixth (+8.99).
IBU Open European Championships (Ridnaun-Val Ridanna, Italy): Men’s and women’s sprints
Canada’s Macx Davies led the North Americans on Friday on Day 2 of the International Biathlon Union (IBU) Open European Championships in Ridnaun, Italy, placing 27th in the men’s 10-kilometer sprint with 9-for-10 shooting (1+0). Davies finished 1:32.3 minutes behind Latvia’s Andrejs Rastorgujevs, who took the win in 24:03.0 with a single penalty as well (0+1).
Russia’s Alexander Loginov placed second, 5.5 seconds back, with one penalty (1+0), and Bulgaria’s Krasimir Anev shot clean to finish third (+24.5).
“At the [last] World Cup in Anterselva [Italy], I have had a difficult time in the shooting range, and so I spent a lot of time in the last few days working on my shooting,” Rastorgujevs told the IBU after. “Today it was clear that all this hard work paid off. It is also a great motivator for Olympic gold.”
For Davies, who’s also headed to the Olympics next month, the result tied his best individual result this season after he placed 27th in an IBU Cup sprint earlier this month in Osrblie, Slovakia.
Canada entered four in the men’s race, with Carsen Campbell finishing 75th (+2:34.6) with one miss (0+1), Aidan Miller placing 91st (+3:18.2) with three penalties (1+2), and Matt Hudec finishing 119th (+4:31.6) with four misses (1+3).
Five American men raced, with Alex Howe finishing 53rd (+2:15.1) with one penalty (1+0), Jake Brown 84th (+3:02.0) with four misses (1+3), Jakob Ellingson 85th (+3:07.0) with one miss (1+0), Max Durtschi 111th (+3:50.1) with four misses (3+1), and Paul Schommer 114th (+3:59.8) with four penalties (2+2) as well.
In the women’s 7.5 k sprint that followed, Chloe Levins of the U.S. was the top North American in 59th, 2:01 behind the winner Iryna Varvynets of Ukraine. Varvynets shot clean and posted the fastest finishing time of 20:54.1, 12.5 seconds faster than France’s Chloé Chevalier, Wednesday’s 15 k champion who had one miss (0+1) on Friday and ended up second. Japan’s Fuyuko Tachizaki reached the podium in third (+15.5) and was one of four women in the top five that shot clean (only Chevalier did not).
“After the individual competition on Wednesday, I was not at all happy with my shooting,” said Varvynets, who placed fifth in the 15 k. “Today I therefore concentrated especially hard in the shooting range. It was my luck that not many finished without errors, otherwise it would probably not have been enough for the victory.”
“Two races, two medals — it could not have gone better for me,” Chevalier said. “In the standing shooting I missed the first disc and got a little nervous, but thankfully, there were no further errors.”
Tachizaki called the bronze medal a “big dream come true”.
“The focus of my season had been the Olympics and I ‘only’ took part in Ridanna as part of the preparations, but with this result I have exceeded everything I have achieved so far,” she said. “At the end of the race I did not only fight hard in the track, I was already dreaming of a medal. Now I’m in seventh heaven.”
Levins had one miss in each stage (1+1), as did fellow American Maddie Phaneuf, who finished 63rd (+2:19.0) with two penalties. Clare Egan followed in 70th (+2:34.2) with four misses (3+1), Deedra Irwin was 85th (+3:38.1) with four penalties (1+3) as well, and Jennie Bender 97th (+5:52.8) with six misses (3+3).
Two Canadians started the race, with Sarah Beaudry finishing 76th (+3:02.9) with four misses (1+3). Erin Yungblut did not finish.
Open European Championships continue Saturday with the men’s and women’s pursuits. The top 60 from the sprint qualify, which, for the North Americans, means Davies, Howe, and Levins.
The championships end Sunday with single mixed and mixed relays.