FIS World Cups back in action
Nordic athletes were back in action just one week after the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, when Lahti hosted the 89th Lahti Ski Games, with eight FIS World Cup events in Ski Jumping, Cross-Country and Nordic Combined from 28th February - 2nd March 2014.
It was a historic finish in Lahti on the day of the sprint competition as two U.S. ladies landed on the podium. Kikkan Randall took the win and Sophie Caldwell in third. Katja Visnar (SLO) took second place. In the men's sprint competition, Paal Golberg (NOR) recorded his second ever World Cup victory to go along with his 15 km classic win earlier in the season. Alexey Petukhov (RUS) was second and Eirik Brandsdal (NOR) in third.
Both the men's and ladies' finals had two of the six athletes go down in crashes. Olympic silver medalist Vesna Fabjan (SLO) and Olympic gold medalist Maiken Caspersen Falla (NOR) collided early in the ladies' final. In the men's event Olympic gold medalist Ola Vigen Hattestad (NOR) and Matias Strandvall (FIN) both fell separately.
Martin Johnsrud Sundby (NOR) extended his Overall World Cup lead with victory in the 15 km free technique interval start competition. Daniel Richardsson (SWE) took second +10.7 behind him whilst the Olympic 50 km champion Alexander Legkov (RUS) was third +11.2.
Marit Bjoergen (NOR) won the ladies’ 10 km free technique interval start competition. For Bjoergen it was her seventh win in this technique putting her one behind Katerina Neumannova (CZE) with eight for the most all-time. In second place was Charlotte Kalla (SWE) +26.9 and in third Therese Johaug (NOR) +27.6.
Only 48 hours after his success in Falun (SWE), Severin Freund won the first of three Ski Jumping competitions in Lahti. Stefan Kraft (AUT) came a career best second place, while double Olympic Champion Kamil Stoch (POL) finished third.
The second day of competition saw the deck shuffled. Stoch won the second competition and Freund took second place. Rounding out the standings was Gregor Schlierenzauer (AUT) who came third and was on the podium for the first time since January.
The team event closed out the Ski Jumping competitions at the Lahti Games and it was Austria extracting a bit of revenge for its second-place Olympic finish. The Austrians won the team competition on the large hill clearly ahead of Germany and Norway.
The ladies ski jumpers were also in action in their first two competitions after the Sochi Olympics. After missing the podium in Sochi, Japan’s Sara Takanashi wasted no time getting back into top form. She claimed first place in both the competitions in Rasnov (ROU), that successfully hosted its first ever FIS World Cup competitions.
Germany’s Eric Frenzel may not have earned first place in the Individual Gundersen competition in Lahti, but his third-place finish was enough for him to seal the Overall World Cup title for the 2013-2014 season.
Frenzel edged teammate Tino Edelmann in a finish line sprint to earn the place on the podium. Another German Johannes Rydzek took first place on the day, seven seconds ahead of Japan’s Akito Watabe. Watabe is in pole position to take second place in the Overall World Cup standings.
The last team sprint of the season was also staged in Lahti. Team Norway, with Havard Klemetsen and Jorgen Graabak earned first place a mere 1.2 seconds ahead of the German team of Frenzel and Rydzek. Rounding out the podium was the French team of Francois Braud and Sebastian Lacroix.
Alpine is back to business
There was little chance for the Alpine athletes to catch their breath after the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. The first major event was staged on 25th February 2014 with the Team Event in Innsbruck (AUT), while over the weekend the men had a full line-up of races in Kvitfjell (NOR) and the ladies were busy in Crans Montana (SUI).
Ten nations lined up their athletes in the premiere of the Innsbruck Nations’ Team Event. Teams representing Austria, Switzerland, Italy, France, USA, Sweden, Germany, Norway, Slovenia and the Czech Republic put on a great show for thousands of fans.
Winning all heats, Norway and Sweden made the final a Scandinavian battle with Sweden claiming the top spot on the podium, leaving Norway in second place. USA and Switzerland gave the medal a last shot in the small final run, where Switzerland made the best of its second chance and claimed bronze, leaving USA off the podium.
It was a speed weekend for the men’s World Cup tour. First on the schedule was the twice re-scheduled downhill race (Garmish-Partenkirchen, St. Moritz). For Olympic super-G gold medalist, Kjetil Jansrud, the race came at the perfect moment as he has amazing momentum right now and he was to claim his first-ever downhill title at his home country’s race. Jansrud was a polite host and shared first-place honours with Georg Streiberger (AUT) in the rare first-place tie. Third position also created some buzz as USA’s Travis Gagnon earned his first-ever World Cup podium.
In the second downhill of the weekend, the podium included an entirely new cast of characters. Canadian speed specialist Erik Guay won, finishing 0.35 seconds ahead of French Johan Clarey and 0.57 seconds ahead of Olympic gold medalist Matthias Mayer (AUT).
The weekend closed with another strong statement from Jansrud who made it two out three victories in front of the home crowd as he claimed the super G. Jansrud topped Switzerland’s Patrick Kueng and Austria’s Mayer.
Despite finishing off the podium in Kvitfjell. super star Aksel Lund Svindal who finished sixth, fifth and fourth in the three races, was able to celebrate two crystal globes, securing both the downhill and the super-G title for the second and fifth time, respectively.
It was a waiting game for the ladies’ World Cup tour in Crans-Montana (SUI). Despite the best efforts of the Organisers to prepare a perfect piste, fog played the role of spoiler on Saturday forcing the cancellation of the downhill.
The downhill was promptly re-scheduled for Sunday in lieu of the super combined. It looked as if Austria's Anna Fenninger was going to clinch the first World Cup downhill victory of her career. Starting with bib 21, the 24-year-old charged down the new and challenging “Mont-Lachaux” slope to take the lead. But then, wearing bib number 29, her teammate Andrea Fischbacher put a stunning run together to race to her third career World Cup win 0.15 seconds faster than Fenninger. Slovenia's Tina Maze landed her 67th career World Cup podium in third position.
Moguls action in Freestyle Skiing
Justine Dufour-Lapointe (CAN) carried the momentum from her gold medal-winning performance at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games to claim victory in the first event back on the World Cup tour in Inawashiro (JPN). In the men's competition it was Bradley Wilson (USA) recording the second win of his career, and the first since he scored victory last year in dual moguls competition, also in Inawashiro.
In an exciting return of dual moguls to the FIS Freestyle World Cup programme the following day, both Hannah Kearney (USA) and Mikael Kingsbury (CAN) got back to their winning ways after disappointing finishes the previous day. With her victory, Kearney now leads Dufour-Lapointe in the World Cup standings by a slim 25 points with three events left in the season.
In the men's competition, Kingsbury found himself reunited with the yellow leader's bib, as former leader Alex Bilodeau (CAN) finished a disappointing weekend with ninth place in the duals competition.