Report from Kazakhstan
The 18th Winter Universiade took place in Almaty, Kazakhstan on Jan. 29-Feb. 8, and featured more than 1,500 athletes competing in all of the Olympic events.
Individual Classic: In the men's 10km, Valeriy Gontar took an 8.9-second win over Russian teammate Dmitriy Rostovtsev, a former world U23 medalist. Alexandre Pouye of France was third at 21.8 seconds behind. Mason Vincent (University of Wyoming) had the best U.S. finish in 44th at 2:54 back, while Jordan Cascagnette (Nipissing) was the top Canadian in 49th.
The women raced a 5km, won by Lilia Vasilieva of Russia with a 13.3-second advantage over her teammate Anna Nechaevskaya, a podium finisher at last year's Russian Nationals. Anna Shevchenko of Kazakhstan – who started the season on the World Cup – was third. Elise Sulser (University of Wyoming) led the U.S. in 23rd place at 1:58.4 off the pace. For Canada, Christel Pichard-jolicoeur (Université Laval) was one spot behind Sulser in 24th.
Pursuit Skate: In the men's 10km Pursuit, Rostovtsev overtook Gontar to win by 14.7 seconds. Armenia's Sergey Mikayelyan – who would later place in the top 30 at the Senior World Championships – moved from fourth up to third to claim the bronze. William Dumas skied from 58th all the way up to 40th to lead the Canadian squad, while Vincent once again had the best U.S. finish in 55th.
In the women's 5km Pursuit, Nechaevskaya of Russia overtook teammate Vasilieva for the gold. Anna Shevchenko of Kazakhstan kept her hold on third place. Sulser again led the U.S.A., slipping one spot to finish 24th, while Pichard-jolicoeur finished 31st for Canada.
Classic Sprint: In the men's 1.6km Classic sprint, local favourite Ivan Lyuft took home the gold medal just ahead of Vladimir Frolov and Egor Berezin of Russia. Canada's Alexis Morin was the only North American to qualify for the heats and finished the day in 18th overall. The top American on the day was Vincent in 56th.
The women's 1.3km race was won by Maria Davydenkova of Russia, followed closely by her teammate Vasilieva in second and Anna Stoyan of Kazakhstan in third. Andrée-anne Théberge in 17th led a quartet of Canadians in the top 30, with Emma Camicioli in 25th, Pichard-jolicoeur in 27th and Shelby Dickey in 30th. The Americans were led home by Yara Thomas in 47th.
Mixed Team Sprint FR: Day Four of racing saw a very rare format. Teams of two from every country competed in a mixed-gender Team skate sprint. Each competitor completed three loops of the 1.3km course, handing off to their teammate after each lap. The home favourites prevailed, with Shevchenko of Kazakhstan taking gold ahead of Celine Chopard Lallier and Louis Schwartz of France, followed by Davydenkova and Frolov of Russia. No North American teams made it out of the semifinals, with Théberge and Morin of Canada coming closest in 16th. Team Relay: The men's 4x7.5km race saw a very tight battle between the Russians and the Kazakhs. Both teams took turns leading, and it wasn't until the final stretch that Rostovtsev of Russia pulled away for good. The Czech Republic outsprinted Japan for the final podium spot. The Canadian team of Cascagnette, Dumas, Conor Thompson and Carrington Pomeroy finished 10th, three minutes ahead of the American team of Vincent, Leif Hanson, Cameron Moore and Will Timmons.
The women's 3x5km featured a similar battle between Russia and Kazakhstan, but this time Nechaevskaya wasted no time pulling away from Irina Bykova of Kazakhstan on the final leg to give the Russians the gold. Continuing a strong week, the French team finished in the bronze-medal position, well ahead of fourth-place Belarus. The Canadian women's squad of Pichard-jolicoeur, Dickey and Kyla Vanderzwet mounted a late charge and overtook the American team of Sulser, Thomas and Meghan Kent on the last lap to finish seventh-place overall, with the U.S.A. finishing eighth.
Classic Mass Start: In the women's 15km mass start, Vasilieva put a cap on dominating Universiade, outsprinting her teammate Nechaevskaya and Shevchenko of Ukraine. The U.S.A.'S Sulser continued to impress with her Classic proficiency, finishing as top North American in 16th. Canada's Pichard-jolicoeur continued her string of top-30 results in 24th, just ahead of Dickey (CAN) in 25th.
The final race, the men's 30km Classic, featured a similar story to the rest of the week. Rostovtsev and Gontar of Russia and Sergey Malyshev and Vitaliy Pukhkalo of Kazakhstan broke away for good early on, finishing in that order almost three minutes ahead of the rest of the field. Dumas once again led the Canadians home in 34th place, while the United State's lone finisher Sam Wiswell came in 47th.
Canada's Carrington Pomeroy (left) in the Men's 30 km Classic mass-start race