The weight is heavy. Pressure from expectations that can cripple or tap into even more primal motivation. Gus Schumacher (U.S./AWS), after qualifying first, and bowing out on Saturday’s World Junior’s skate sprint in the semifinals, placed seventh overall. That is stout. But so is the person behind the results who possesses a killer instinct on the race course but by all accounts projects humility in the rest of his life. The impression is that this nineteen-year-old from Anchorage, Alaska is downright kind — understanding that the hardware won becomes hollow if the person behind the top-step glory is singularly focused on the self.
Post-race interview with Gus Schumacher
The time between Saturday’s sprint and Monday’s 10-kilometer interval start classic race must have been a liminal moment for the young skier. Schumacher is in Oberwiesenthal, Germany for podiums not the process of ruminating on what-if scenarios. The transition from not meeting his own benchmark of success on Saturday to channeling all that potential and kinetic energy down to the mitochondrial level was evident Monday as Schumacher won the 10 k classic in 26:31.7.
This was a close race that Schumacher, as the last of 103 starters, could chew on as the day’s fastest time split makers at 5 k in bib 102, Germany’s Friedrich Moch, and bib 103, Italy’s Davide Graz, set off before him. The German and Italian came through in first and second, respectively, at 5 k. Moch was 7.5 seconds up on Schumacher, Graz only 1.2 seconds faster.
Schumacher closed down. By the finish, he had put 4.5 seconds into Moch in second overall and 6.7 seconds into Graz. Good young man, who also happens to be fast, wins a close race.
This is Schumacher’s first individual World Junior’s medal. He placed fourth last year at the Lahti World Junior Championships in the 30 k mass start classic. He also anchored the junior men’s winning 4 x 5 k relay for the U.S. at those championships.
The celebration continued for the U.S. with two other skiers in the top-10. Ben Ogden (UVM/SMST2) raced to ninth place (+49.8), and Luke Jager (U Utah/APU) 10th (+50.6). The fourth U.S. skier, Johnny Hagenbuch (SVSEF) notched 25th overall (+1:29.8).
Canada’s Xavier McKeever skied to 17th (+1:13.4), Remi Drolet 29th (+1:35.0), Olivier Léveillé 30th (+1:35), and Thomas Stephen 65th (+3:48.7).