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

SkiTrax - - Contents - by Julie Me­lan­son

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.

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