Masters World Cup 2018
Skiers from around the world gathered at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota for the 2018 Masters World Cup from Jan. 19-26. Representing top Nordic nations such as Norway, Finland, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Russia, the downtown city venue
The organizers demonstrated that they could put together a sound championships on a 7.5km loop in the heart of the city. Despite lower numbers than forecast and wacky weather, the Loppet Foundation delivered another stellar well-organized Masters World Cup in North America.
The medal count added up to 434 medals. The top nation was the U.S.A. with a total of 177 medals. Norway finished second place with 55 medals, and in third place was Finland with a medal count of 47.
Warm temperatures in Minneapolis were a big change for the region where skiers had spent a good portion of the season dealing with near- or sub-zero temperatures. Warm klisters were used for the Classic events that featured wet, granular snow along the 7.5km loop.
Master skiers compete in five-year age categories from 30 to 90 years, starting with AG1 (30-34) up to AG12 (85-89). J.D. Downing, World Masters Association (WMA) president and national director of the American Cross Country Skiers (AXCS), said that the oldest competitor was Idaho’s Charley French, who is still kicking and gliding with the best at 92 years.
“Because of Charley,” said Downing, “we actually changed the WMA rules, effective with the MWC2018, so that skiers 90+ (we usually only have one every eight to 10 years) would have their own race category instead of being combined with the ‘kids’ in the 85-89 categories.” Other ‘kids’ included Canadian Thor Vikstrom at 89 years and American Patricia Kaald at 81 years.
Races were held over seven days, with six days of racing and one rest day on Jan. 23. Day One on Jan. 20 featured Classic-technique events, and the U.S.A. got on the scoreboard early in the 15km women’s races, as American Alexandra Jospe won gold in the AG1 (30-34) event, Margie Nelson took home the AG2 (35-39) victory, Kim Rudd won the AG4 (45-49) race, Elizabeth Youngman ruled the AG6 (55-59) field and Carolyn Tiernan won AG8 (65-69) gold.
In the women’s 10km CL AG9 (70-74) race, American Gabriele Andersen, 73, opted to double-pole the entire course, winning over compatriot Trina Hosmer. The U.S.A.’S Kaald was the only competitor in the 10km AG11 (80-84) race, winning gold. In the men’s 30km AG2 (35-39) race, American Erik Solberg took the win, as John Bauer won 30km CL AG4 (45-49) gold for the U.S.A.
On Day Two, the same distances were run on the same course, but the technique switched to freestyle. American Jospe won gold again in the 15km FR AG1 (30-34) race, along with fellow U.S. skiers Nelson AG2 (35-39), Bonnie Weiskopf AG4 (45-49), Kathy Maddock AG5 (50-54), Jan Guenther AG6 (55-59), Muffy Ritz AG7 (60-64) and Hosmer, who won AG9 (70-74) gold in the 10km FR race. Canada’s Sarah Peters was the top AG3 (40-44) finisher in the 15km FR race, while Judy Buchanan-mappin won gold in AG8 (65-69) event. In the men’s races, the U.S.A.’S Barry Makarewicz took home gold in the AG6 (55-59) race, and Canadian Vikstrom won AG12 (85-89) gold in 10km FR event.
Day Three saw skiers choose between a 7.5km morning Classic race (5km for some categories) and a 7.5km afternoon skate race. In the Classic, Kathleen Dewahl (USA) took AG1 (30-34) gold, and it was Nelson (AG2) and Weiskopf (AG3) winning again. U.S. skier Kelly Milligan won the AG6 (55-59) race, Andersen took the AG9 (70-74) event, and in the 5km, Kaald took home AG11 (80-84) gold again. Matthew Liebsch (AG1) and Craig Cardinal (AG2) took gold for the U.S. as well, while Irvin Servold won gold in the men’s 5km AG12 (8589) race for Canada.
The U.S.A.’S Jospe (AG1) proved herself a triple threat by earning three Masters World Cup gold medals in as many days. It was gold for Gina Chythlook of the U.S. in AG2, Erika Saveraid in AG3, Kelly Skillicorn in AG5, Youngman in AG6, Kate Ellis in AG7 and Tiernan in AG8. Canadian Jim Ballendline took gold in the AG11 5km race, while Vikstrom claimed the same in AG12 contest.
The events that really challenged nations were the relays held on Day Four. It was the only event to not hold races in every age category, finishing at AG10, meaning that any skiers above the age of 75 raced in AG10 (75-79) category.
Americans Liebsch, Christopher Harvey, Mark Johnson and Zach Varty had the fastest men’s 4x5km relay time of the day, winning the AG1 (30-34) race. The U.S. men went on to win the AG5 (50-54) and AG6 (55-59) races as well. The Canadian men took the AG4 (45-49) race, courtesy of Gabriel Babin, Bruce Macneil, Luc Tremblay and Michel Labrie.
The American women were also on fire, winning a clean sweep of all 4x5km relay age-group categories from AG1 (30-34) through AG5 (50-54). AG1 winners included Dewahl, Chythlook, Tamra Kornfield and Davya Flaharty. When the dust settled, the U.S.A. took home a total of eight relay golds, followed by Finland with five relay victories.
Day Five featured Classic races covering 15km, 20km, 25km, 30km and 45km distances. For the women, the U.S.A.’S Elspeth Ronnander raced to gold in the 30km AG1 (30-34) event, with Nelson winning the AG2 (35-39) race and Weiskopf the AG4 (45-49) competition. Youngman also won gold for the U.S. in the 30km AG6 (55-59) event. Magdelena Bowen won the 20km in AG7 (60-64), and Andersen scored her third gold in 15km AG9 (70-74) race, while Kaald won gold in the AG11 (80-84) 15km competition.
Harvey started off the men’s gold run for the U.S., winning the 40km CL AG1 (30-34) race, with Cardinal following in the AG2 (35-39) event. Carl Hoerger was the winner of the AG7 (60-64) 20km race, and Markus Gapany won the 30km AG7 (60-64) category. Canada’s Kim Poole took home AG7 (60-64) gold in the 35km Classic, the distance for the men’s AG7 event. Reno Deprey and French took gold in the 15km AG12 and AG13 races respectively.
The final Day Six featured the same distances, but the technique switched to freestyle. American women started off the gold run with Flaharty taking the AG1 (30-34), Lindsey Bengtson the AG2 (35-39) and Jennifer Santoro the AG3 (40-44) events – all 30km. Canadian Frances Vice took the AG4 (34-49) gold in 30km freestyle women’s race. Then it was back to the U.S. with Mary Beth Tuttle winning AG5 (50-54) gold. Renowned Jan Guenther won the AG6 race (55-59) race, Tiernan took the AG8 (65-69) contest and Kati Campbell won the AG9 (70-74) race. Vikstrom was the sole notable gold for Canada in the men’s 15km AG12 (85-90) competition.
The MWC2018 will go down in history as the first major international cross-country-ski championship to have a distance Classic race impacted by a parked train on the course. Far better still, thanks to lightning-fast reactions of volunteers, the impact on the races was remarkably limited. Competitors to this day are left wondering what the conductor was thinking – still, he or she certainly had prime spectator seats!
Tragedy also hit the annual competition, where on the last lap of the very last race of the MWC2018, Russian skier Andrey Shamshurin collapsed and later passed away.
Shamshurin was one of just 11 Russian skiers in Minneapolis, rather than the expected 70-80 Russian competitors who were ready and willing to come, but who could not attain the travel visas needed to enter the U.S.
The Loppet Foundation hosted a truly top-notch cross-country-ski event in the Twin Cities. The man-made loop in Theodore Wirth Park was the longest artificial snow loop in the U.S. in the winter of 2018 and was accessible to all skiers.
With the improved physical capacity and infrastructure built for the event, the downtown Park that hosted MWC2018 is now indeed a world-class venue.
Matthew Liebsch anchored the U.S. men's AG1 (30-34) relay team to gold.
Canadian Bruce Macneil en route to gold in the men's AG4 (45-49) relay.
Renowned Jan Guenther from Minnesota of Gear West Ski & Run fame won two golds.
Canada's Sarah Peters was the top AG3 (40-44) finisher in the women's15km FR race.
American AG1 skier Alexandra Jospe took home three Masters World Cup gold medals in as many days.