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Sweden 1 women cruise to Team Sprint win after Sweden 2 fall

Mar 01, 2024·Cross-Country
Sweden versus Sweden: Dahlqvist (centre) chases Svahn before falling @ Nordic Focus

On paper, Sweden 1 looked unbeatable in the Team Sprint Classic on Friday as the FIS Cross-Country Skiing World Cup returned to action after a two-week break following the North American leg of the season. And so it proved on the track in Lahti, Finland as World Cup sprint leader Linn Svahn and Olympic and World sprint champion Jonna Sundling blew the rest of the field away.

This doesn’t quite tell the whole story, however. Expected to be among Sweden 1’s closest rivals, Sweden 2 and Germany 1 were never going to challenge after Maja Dahlqvist (SWE) fell halfway through the second lap, taking Laura Gimmler (GER) down with her.

And while the Germans recovered to claim bronze, the Swede sprint specialist broke her ski, meaning she was almost a minute behind the leaders by the time she had replaced it, losing all momentum and hopes of a podium alongside Frida Karlsson, who has been much improved in the individual sprint races this season.

In truth, Sweden 1 would probably have needed to suffer a fall of their own to have been challenged for gold. They qualified nearly eight seconds faster than second-quickest Sweden 2 to take their place at the front of the grid as the racers lined up for six laps – three per team-mate, skied alternately – of the 1.3km course.

And after Jonna Sundling blasted out of the blocks, as she nearly always does, the result rarely looked in doubt.

Norway 1 might have argued otherwise, after another sprint big-hitter, Kristine Stavaas Skistad – a winner in Canmore, Canada recently – closed the gap on Svahn to just 0.46 seconds after lap two. But Sundling proved to be the difference. Having been overshadowed by her younger compatriot for most of the season, the 29-year-old arrived in Lahti looking back to her best after winning both races – including a Sprint Freestyle – at the last World Cup event in Minneapolis, USA.

And on a tough course feature one brutal climb and some treacherous turns on the long downhill section – including the one that claimed Dahlqvist and Gimmler – she was a class apart. By the time Lotta Udnes Weng missed her contact with Skistad on the last of five changeovers, Sundling had helped Sweden 1 open up a lead of 24.46 seconds, allowing Svahn to cruise to victory in a time of 18 minutes and 51.77 seconds.

The Norwegians’ mistake did, however, make the race for the other podium places even more exciting. With one lap to go, very little separated both of Norway’s and Finland’s teams as well as Germany 1, with Katharina Henning – an Olympic champion in this event – closing the gap on the rest of the chasing pack by the time she handed over to Gimmler for the final circuit.

But it was Finland 1 who claimed second. Roared on by a large home crowd, Johanna Matintalo (FIN), with two World Cup individual sprint podiums to  her name, made a break for it on the final climb, opening up enough of a gap to hold off Germany (third) and both Norwegian teams, including Skistad as she made her trademark charge for the finish line. Finland 2 finished fifth with Sweden 2 down in 14th.

The Swedes 🇸🇪 Jonna Sundling and Linn Svahn dominate the Lahti C team sprint with a significant lead. 🏆 Second place goes to the Finnish 🇫🇮team and third place to the German 🇩🇪team. 📸: Nordic Focus #fiscrosscountry #worldcup #finland #teamsprint #wintersports #lahti

Svahn joked that the aim at the start of the race had been to “beat Sweden two”, adding that she “didn’t see that Maja [Dahlqvist] had broken her ski but “felt that something was happening” behind her.

The final word has to go to in-form Sundling, though.

“The tactics were ‘just be fast'. We had a really good day and I think we could ski as we wanted”Jonna Sundling (SWE)

Racing continues in Lahti on Sunday with the women’s and men’s 20km Interval Start Classic.

Click here for the full results from Lahti.

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