Nordic Junior/u23 World Championship: USA Double Bronze
Historic Worlds for Team USA with Double Bronze Medals
Soldier Hollow Nordic Center in Midway, Utah hosted the FIS Nordic Junior and U23 World Championships from Jan 30 to Feb. 5. The Salt Lake City area is no stranger to world-class sporting events, but it had not seen an international Championship since the 2002 Olympic Games. North Americans hoped to use their home-court advantage to out-ski their European rivals.
Women's Junior Classic Sprint
Racing got underway on Jan. 30 under sunny skies with the junior Classic sprints. In the women's race, it was Polina Nekrasova of Russia who skied clear to claim gold in the women's 1.4km Classic race, winning by 3.56 seconds over Germany's Antonia Fräbel and her teammate Coletta Rydzek at 4.58 behind. The top North American was the U.S.A.'S Julia Kern making the top-10 with a strong ninth-place result. Three American women placed in the top-30 to advance to the quarterfinal heats, including Kern in 11th, Hannah Halvorsen in 13th and Lauren Jortberg placing 27th. Claire Grall-johnson posted the top Canadian finish in 39th.
Men's Junior Classic Sprint
In the men's race, Germany's Janosch Brugger surprised top-qualifier Petter Stakston of Norway at the line with a superb effort from behind, claiming the top podium spot. Fellow Norwegian Herman Martens Meyer rounded out the men's podium with the bronze. Top North American honours went to the U.S.A.'S Bill Harmeyer in 12th. Canadian Étienne Hébert also posted a strong result, finishing 17th.
Men's U23 Classic Sprint
In the next day's men's U23 Classic sprint, the U.S.A.'S Cole Morgan raced to strong ninth. Fredrik Riseth from Norway claimed a decisive victory with a 1.05-second margin over Russia's Alexander Bolshunov. Norwegian Joachim Aurland took bronze at 2.3 seconds back. The top Canadian was Evan Palmer-charrette in 33rd.
Women's U23 Classic Sprint
In the women's U23 Classic sprint, rising Canadian star Dahria Beatty led the North Americans in 12th, as Anna Dyvik of Sweden blew away the competition, winning both the qualifier and A-final. Norwegian Thea Krokan Murud used fast skis and strong double-poling to lock up the silver, and Sweden's Maja Dahlqvist won a tight race for bronze. Jesse Knori was the top U.S. skier in 15th overall.
Women's Junior 5km Individual Freestyle
The U.S.A.'S Katherine Ogden raced to a phenomenal fifth-place finish in the junior women's 5km Freestyle Individual start. She finished 6.5 seconds
off the podium, as Sweden's Ebba Andersson stormed to a dominant victory. Marte Maehlum Johansen from Norway claimed the silver, 13.8 seconds behind, while the bronze went to Russian Mariya Istomina, 15.3 seconds behind Andersson. American Halvorsen also posted a top result with a solid 13th-place finish at 1:01.2 back. Taeler Mccrerey (USA) was the thirdbest North American finisher in 20th at 1:18.9 behind. Honours for the top Canadian finisher of the day went to Lisle Compton in 39th at 1:51.9 back.
Men's Junior 10km Individual Freestyle
American Hunter Wonders from Anchorage, Alaska put together two solid laps on a challenging loop to finish 16th in the junior men's 10km Freestyle Individual start, as Russia swept the podium. Vladislav Vechkanov started 59th and skied negative splits to take a 7.9-second victory over teammates Egor Kazarinov in second, and Yaroslav Rybochkin in third at 13.3 seconds back, as Team Russia placed all four of its athletes in the top-five. Gareth Williams was the top Canadian, skiing to 20th overall at 1:24.6 back.
Women's U23 10km Individual Freestyle
Canada's Beatty skied a strong race to finish in 16th at 1:25.8 behind Dyvik of Sweden, who made it two-for-two in winning the U23 women's 10km Freestyle Individual start over three Norwegian rivals. Tiril Udnes Weng of Norway faded after having the fastest first lap in the field, but managed to hold onto the silver medal at 16.8 seconds behind Dyvik. Two more Norwegians battled for the bronze, with Lovise Heimdal edging out Lotta Udnes Weng by one-tenth of a second at 23 seconds behind Dyvik. Frederique Vezina (CAN) skied negative splits to place 25th at 1:58.8 back. Vezina was closely followed by teammate Katherine Stewart-jones in 27th at 2:07.8 behind. Kelsey Phinney posted the top U.S. result of the day, also skiing negative splits to sneak into 30th place at 2:24.6 back.
Men's U23 15km Individual Freestyle
The U.S.A.'S Patrick Caldwell had a stellar performance, placing ninth in the U23 men's 15km Freestyle Individual start, as the Russian team owned the podium again, led by Bolshunov with a decisive 22-second victory over teammate Alexey Chervotkin. Denis Spitsov rounded out the podium at 28.2 seconds behind Bolshunov.
Adam Martin (USA) was the next North American finisher, crossing the line in 22nd at 2:22.4 back. Martin was closely followed by teammate John Hegman in 24th at 2:25.2 behind. Palmer-charrette was the fastest Canuck on the day in 36th at 3:20.2 back.
Women's Junior 10km Skiathlon
The U.S.A.'S Ogden claimed a historic podium in the junior women's 10km Skiathlon, winning bronze and becoming the first American to medal at the Nordic Junior World Championships. “It's been my goal to medal here for the past two years. Every day in training it's kind of like something that I think about; it's the little thing that helps me push myself,” said Ogden post-race. Norway's Johansen came from behind in the final half of the freestyle leg to take gold, while Swede's Andersson earned her third medal of the Championships, finishing second at 6.6 seconds back. Ogden finished 10.4 seconds behind Johansen. The U.S.A.'S Hailey Swirbul was 24th, Natalie Hynes was the top Canadian in 28th, followed by teammate India Mcisaac in 30th.
Men's Junior 20km Skiathlon
Canada's Williams delivered a strong 11th-place finish, followed by the U.S.A.'S Wyatt Gebhardt in 12th in the junior men's 20km Skiathlon, as Russia's Vechkanov picked up his second gold medal at the Junior Worlds in Utah. Norway skied to the silver and bronze medals with Thomas Helland Larsen in second at 1.9 seconds back, edging out his countryman Harald Oestberg Amundsen, who settled for third at 2.2 seconds behind. The U.S.A.'S Wonders of APU Nordic was the top American, finishing a solid 18th. Canada's Philippe Boucher made the top-30, finishing 26th.
Women's U23 15km Skiathlon
Canada's Beatty was the top North American in 19th, as Norway's Lotta Udnes Weng closed out the USANA FIS U23 World Championships with gold in the Skiathlon at Soldier Hollow. Lotta Udnes Weng came from behind to overtake Finland's Johanna Matintalo, who took silver. Russia's Yana Kirpichenko won bronze. Canadian Stewart-jones finished 21st, while teammate Vezina was 29th. Knori was the top American in 30th, with Alayna Sonnesyn in 31st.
Men's U23 30km Skiathlon
While the day belonged to Russia, the U.S.A.'S Caldwell delivered a strong ninth-place finish in the U23 men's 30km Skiathlon. Bolshunov took the win as Russia swept the podium yet again with Chervotkin winning silver and Spitsov the bronze. Fellow American Hegman of the Sun Valley Ski Education finished just behind Caldwell in 11th, while Northern Michigan University's Martin placed 15th for three U.S. skiers in the top-15. Palmer-charrette was the top Canadian in 26th, with Alex Dumas in 33rd. As the three Russians came off the final hill after a grueling 30 kilometres, they locked arms on the downhill and coasted together into the stadium. As they came to the finish line, they stopped in unison seeking to cross together.
Women's Junior 4x3.3km Relay
In the women's relay, the U.S.A. took a historic bronze medal with strong performances from Swirbul, Kern, Halvorsen and Ogden. The Russian junior women's team took gold over France in a hotly contested race. While Russia and Italy battled for gold up front, Ogden made a move on France to take the lead, while Russia gapped Italy to take the gold by 20 seconds, with U.S.A. winning bronze at just 26 seconds behind Russia. Canada's Hynes, Compton, Mcisaac and Annika Richardson finished 12th.
Men's Junior 4x5km Relay
The U.S.A.'S Harmeyer, Wonders, Gebhardt and Kamran Husain finished ninth in the junior men's relay, with Canada's Antoine Blais, Ryan Jackson, Boucher and Williams just behind in 10th. At the finish coming into the stadium, there was a tight battle between Norway's Larsen and Russia's Vechkanov. Larsen found himself on the outside of the 180° turn into the final 100 metres. But he had strong momentum and made the pass to set up a finish spring. Larsen kept pace and made his move at the finish line to take the gold by four-tenths of a second. France claimed the bronze.
(opposite) U.S.A.'S Women's Junior relay team take home bronze (l-r): Hailey Swirbul, Katharine Ogden, Hannah Halvorsen and Julia Kern. (below l-r) Canadian Dahria Beatty was 12th in the U23 women's CL sprint; Paddy Caldwell (USA) was a fab 9th in both the U23 men's 15km Individual FR and the 30km Skiathlon.