PyeongChang cross-country course put to the test as World Cup makes Asian debut
On 3-5 February, cross-country took centre stage in PyeongChang, with a World Cup event providing the opportunity for the 2018 Winter Games facilities to be put through their paces.
Day one in the cross-country competition at the Aplensia Center – the first World Cup event ever staged in Asia – saw Gleb Retivykh of Russia and Slovenia's Anamarija Lampic top the podium in the men’s and women’s classic sprints. It was the first time either had won a World Cup event.
The men’s final produced a dramatic climax, as Retivykh came from second on the final curve to cross the line ahead of Norway's Sondre Turvoll Fossli. Retiyvkh’s fellow Russian, Andrey Parfenov took the bronze.
Meanwhile Lampic was delighted to clinch her maiden World Cup triumph. "I had to wait six years for my first victory and it is great,” she beamed. Lampic pushed in front of Poland's Justyna Kowalczyk on the final climb and maintained her lead to the finish. Silje Oeyre Slind of Norway came second with Ida Sargent of the USA sealing third place.
Milestone for Kowalczyk
After narrowly missing out on the podium on day one, Kowalczyk, enjoyed success the following day in the skiathlon, as she claimed her 50th World Cup victory, but her first in over three years. She crossed the line first after completing the 7.5km course in 43:54.7 minutes, nearly a full minute clear of the USA’s Liz Stephen who picked up her sixth individual World Cup podium. Japan's Masako Ishida was third, 1:14.8 back, returning to the podium for the first time since 2009.
Kowalczyk said: “It has been a long time since I have been on the World Cup podium. I had very good skis, both classic and skate. I was quite surprised to see how well I skated.”
In the men’s event, there was another maiden World Cup victory for a Russian athlete, as Pyotr Sedov crossed the line first following a breakaway from Norway's Daniel Stock on the free technique portion of the 15km skiathlon to win in a time of 1:18.49.6. Stock crossed second, 22.5 seconds later with fellow Norwegian Mathias Rundgreen third.
“I felt very strong today,” said Sedov. “I have to thank to my coach, service staff and to my family. I am very glad that my first ever World Cup podium is a win.”
Russian men complete clean sweep
On the final day of competition, Russia completed a clean sweep in the men's events as their duo of Andrey Parfenov and Gleb Retivykh – who had claimed gold and bronze in the individual sprint two days earlier - clinched the team sprint title. The pair completed the 1.5 kilometre course in a time of 19 minutes 34.1 seconds.
Russia's victory was a close one as French pairing Baptiste Gros and Luca Chanavat were only 0.3 seconds adrift. A second Russian team, consisting of Artem Maltsev and Nikita Kriukov, were third.
“It was just as hard skiing as it was in the classic the other day," said Retivykh. "I did not know at the finish if we had won until Andrey told me."
Meanwhile, Sweden took top honours in the women's team sprint with Elin Mohlin and Maria Nordstroem finishing in 20:37.11.
It was a four-way battle heading into the final lap with Norway's Anna Svendsen and Silje Oeyre Slind coming in just 1.7 seconds behind. Bronze went to the US pair of Sophie Caldwell and Ida Sargent, who finished six seconds off the pace.Following the win, Mohlin paid tribute to her partner and to the venue: “I believed Maria would go for victory. She is very strong. "It was very nice to compete in Pyeongchang.”