While Roddy Ward, biathlon Canada national team coach, was referring to athlete Rosanna Crawford when he said, “Way more is possible,” it’s easily a sentiment that could be applied to the rest of the international nordic circuits after this past weekend of racing.
The weekend’s racing began Friday with the IBU World Cup 7.5/10 k sprint in Hochfilzen, Austria, that saw Johannes Thingnes Bø of Norway and Kaisa Mäkäräinen of Finland claim victories in their respective races. American Tim Burke turned in the top North American finish after placing 13th, while teammate Susan Dunklee paced 29th for the women.
The action continued in Hochfilzen on Saturday with the men’s 4 x 7.5 k and the women’s 4 x 6 k relays. Russia proved dominant in the men’s race, winning by roughly 20 seconds. Canada finished a team-best sixth place while the U.S. team was lapped after a combination a poor starting position and sub-par skis. In the women’s relay, Germany proved as strong as the Russian men, topping their field by over 20 seconds. The Canadian women were unable to match their male counterparts, however, and finished 11th.
In the final day of IBU World Cup racing, one Canadian athlete demonstrated what exactly was possible. Crawford, who started the 10 k pursuit in 34th, wanted to improve her position, but when she crossed the line for a career-best fifth place it was apparent improving her position was just the beginning. On the men’s side, Burke was the top North American in 25th position.
The weekend also brought FIS Cross Country World Cup action to Davos, Switzerland. Norwegians Therese Johaug and Maritn Johnsrud Sundby won Saturday’s 10/15 k classic interval starts. A trio of Americans made up of Liz Stephen, Jessie Diggins and Sadie Bjornsen went 20-21-22 in the 10 k to give the Americans three skiers in the top 30. Canadian Emily Nishikawa placed 29th for her best-ever World Cup finish. In the 15 k, Canadian Alex Harvey also found success, skiing to 17th, which he said was one of his best distance performances at altitude.
In Sunday’s sprint, Ida Sargent returned to the spotlight after placing 16th, while teammates Kikkan Randall and Sophie Caldwell joined her in the top 30 after finishing in 20th and 22nd positions. On the men’s side, Canadian Lenny Valjas returned to form to place 13th while American Andy Newell placed 15th.
The real story of the day, however, was that Norway continued its winning streak with both its men and women sweeping Sunday’s races and earning 10 of 12 podium positions in Davos.
Not just over the mountains from from Davos, Livigno, Italy hosted the La Sgambeda Marathon. While the women’s 42 k freestyle was dominated by Riitta-Liisa Roponen of Finland, American Holly Brooks was able to hold on for an impressive second place.
Back across the home front, NorAm racing continued in Rossland, British Columbia despite warm conditions and a lack of snow. Both races were classic distance races with 7.5/11 k on Saturday and 11/15 k on Sunday, and Canadian Alysson Marshall and American Kris Freeman topped their respective fields each day.
Last Thursday, the FIS Nordic Combined Continental Cup opened in Park City, Utah, where Taylor Fletcher posted the two best American performances in fifth and eighth place.
The IPC World Cup also opened last Wednesday in Vuokatti, Finland, with Canadian Mark Arendz taking silver in his first race on Thursday: the 15 k standing biathlon. Two days later, his Canadian Para Nordic teammates Chris Klebl and Brittany Hudak both earned bronze in the 10 k sit-ski and 5 k standing, respectively. Also on Saturday, American Oksana Masters captured a career-best World Cup silver in the 5 k sit-ski, and Andy Soule just missed the podium in the 10 k sit-ski (behind Klebl) in fourth.
On Sunday, Masters carried her momentum to win gold in the women’s sit-ski sprint, becoming the first American female Paralympic nordic skier to do so since the early 2000s. On Tuesday, she took her first-ever international biathlon silver in the biathlon sprint.
La Sgambeda, Livigno, Italy
Friday’s women’s 42 k freestyle mass start report
Saturday’s Pro Team Tempo prologue recap
Sunday’s 35 k classic mass start recap
IPC World Cup, Vuokatti, Finland
Sunday Masters wins sprint gold
Tuesday Masters tallies biathlon silver
IBU World Cup, Hochfilzen, Austria
FIS Cross Country World Cup, Davos, Switzerland
NorAm Opener, Rossland, British Columbia
Saturday’s 7.5/11 k classic report
Sunday’s 11/15 k classic report
Nordic Combined Continental Cup Opener, Park City, Utah