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Karlsson thanks 'sun and cinnamon buns' for first victory in a year

Jan 20, 2024·Cross-Country
Frida Karlsson celebrates her first World Cup victory since 4 January 2023 © NordicFocus

Last time Frida Karlsson (SWE) won a Coop FIS Cross-Country World Cup race was on 4 January 2023.

On Saturday, just over a year later, she was back on top of the podium after a strong performance in the women's 20km mass start classic in Oberhof, Germany.

Home favourite Katharina Hennig (GER) finished second and Finland's Kerttu Niskanen took the third place.

"I feel great," said Karlsson, who finished second in Friday's classic sprint.

"I've been longing for this. It was a long time since last victory so today I felt really good,"

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Instead of relaxing and spending some time with family after Tour de Ski ended two weekends ago, Karlsson, Oberhof sprint winner Linn Svahn (SWE) and Swedish men's skier Johan Haeggstroem had gone for a mini training holiday in Lavaze, Italy. On high altitude, Karlsson had been doing some sprint training with Svahn, which possibly contributed to the 24-year-old landing her first sprint podium on Friday.

We've had a lot of sun and cinnamon buns so I think that's key to the successFrida Karlsson

However, apart from sparring against the World Cup sprint No.1 in the Italian mountains, Karlsson said the milder temperatures and traditional baked Swedish goods had also contributed to her being back in top shape.

"We've had a lot of sun and cinnamon buns so I think that's key to the success," the 24-year-old said.

Sixteen skiers formed a front group for the second half of the race, often with Karlsson, Svahn and Ebba Andersson (SWE) in the lead together with Hennig. But despite several attempts from the Swedes to break up the field, the group coming into the last of six laps consisted of 15 competitors.

With one kilometre left to race, Karlsson set off, chased by Hennig and Niskanen. The gap to the rest of the field kept increasing and the front trio got to battle it out for the podium positions. With strong double poling in the final stretch, however, no-one could get past Karlsson, who has worked hard on her upper body strength. The Swede crossed the line 2.3 seconds before Hennig as 35-year-old Niskanen claimed the third top-three finish this season, 3.8 seconds after the winner. Germany's Victoria Carl finished fourth and Svahn grabbed the fifth place.

"It was a great race with a lot of spectators on the uphill into the stadium. I was like in Norway – very loud, and that motivated us a lot," Hennig said.

"It was a very tough and tactical race with a lot of headwind, but I'm very happy to have a podium in front of the home crowd."

Germany's Katharina Hennig (left), Sweden's Frida Karlsson (middle) and Finland's Kerttu Niskanen (right) celebrate on the podium © NordicFocus
Germany's Katharina Hennig (left), Sweden's Frida Karlsson (middle) and Finland's Kerttu Niskanen (right) celebrate on the podium © NordicFocus

Before the race, the 27-year-old German had said the team was hoping ”to have a lot of girls in the top-30, in the front of the race”. With two Germans in the top-four, and six among the first 30 skiers, it was a good day for the host country where the World Cup has returned to Oberhof after an 11-year absence. The strong results sparked hopes for Sunday's 4x7.5km relay classic/free.

"It's great to have so many spectators in Germany. I think cross-country skiing in Germany is becoming bigger and bigger," Hennig said.

Overall World Cup leader Jessie Diggins (USA) was first to the sprint bonus point marks at 9.4km and 16km, collecting a total of 30 points.

She crossed the finish line 9.5 seconds after Karlsson but had to settle for a sixth place. Austria's Teresa Stadlober, who had stayed among the front skiers for much of the race, finished seventh as two-time overall World Cup champion Heidi Weng was No.8.

Click here for full results from the women's 20km mass start classic.

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