From the gold medal winners through to an athlete in last place, nobody at the ski mountaineering sprint finals at Villars Winter Park could stop smiling on Monday.
“I am happy, happy, happy. This is a beautiful sport,” said Rocco Baldini (ITA), who won gold in the men’s sprint in 2 minutes, 30.14 seconds, beating his compatriot Luca Tomasoni on the line by a narrow margin. “It was beautiful racing against this crazy boy Luca, and going for the finish with him.
“This sport is so difficult on the body and the brain so we are both very pleased. My start was great and then I opened the gas. Now we want skimo to come to Milan and Cortina, our country, for the 2026 Winter Olympics. We want to show people how beautiful this sport is.”
Tomasoni took silver, while Ot Ferrer Martinez (ESP) got the bronze in the fast and furious event, which involves athletes skiing and trekking up a short, steep slope, then slaloming down.
Maria Costa Diez (ESP) was also overcome with emotion after winning gold in the women’s sprint (3:22.45). “I can’t stop crying, I’m so happy,” she said. “I don’t have words to express what I feel like right now. I started very fast and kept going in first position. I was all the time in front of the group. It is just a dream come true.”
Silvia Berra (ITA) got the silver and Margot Ravinel (FRA) the bronze.
Perhaps more unexpectedly, even those finishing at the bottom of the rankings emerged feeling like winners. Foremost among them was Kari Forseth of Norway, who tried skimo for the first time only four weeks ago, surely making her one of the least-experienced athletes ever to become a Youth Olympian.
“Up until last month I was doing track and field, running 800m,” said Forseth, who finished in last place. The Norwegian was just under a minute behind the fastest competitor in the seeding and had to see a medic afterwards due to chest pains.
“I have been on cross-country skis before but not skimo skis, which have different bindings, and I found doing the transitions very difficult,” she said. “I’m also not very fast at the downhill section. I was a bit nervous.”
Forseth made it on to the Norway team thanks to her athletic ability. “There are some skimo athletes at my school who are good friends and they dragged me to a camp,” she said.
“They did running tests, which I did very well on, so I was on the team. When I told family and friends I was going to the Winter YOG, they were amazed. I’m still getting used to how the sport works so I don’t mind finishing last.”
Her lack of success in Lausanne certainly has not dampened her optimism. “I’m here to learn and get experience,” she said. “Once I’ve got the techniques better I hope I can one day make it to the Olympics. I’ve found out that I really love this sport.”
It is a sentiment shared by everyone at Villars Winter Park.