Ebba Andersson won the women’s 15km skiathlon at the Planica 2023 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships on Saturday, with such a strong performance that she could afford a fall and keep her lead.
Grinding down the opponents with her hard work in the climbs, the 25-year-old claimed her fourth consecutive distance race victory to become the first Swedish woman to claim a skiathlon title in a major event.
She finished 22 seconds before teammate Frida Karlsson, who won her second consecutive world championships skiathlon silver. Norway’s Astrid Oeyre Slind finished third.
"It feels amazing. Completely a dream come true," said Andersson, who upgraded her skiathlon bronze from the world championships at Oberstdorf, Germany 2021, winning her first individual world title.
"It was a tough race but I felt strong and just tried to stay calm. Downhill it wasn’t perfect – it was far from perfect - and I also managed to get down in the snow. But uphill and on the flat parts I felt strong and that was the key today."
Andersson’s season itself has been a lesson in how to get back up after a fall. She caught Covid-19 after the Coop FIS Cross-Country World Cup stop in Lillehammer, Norway, in December, missing out on the Tour de Ski 2022-23. Since coming back to World Cup action in Les Rousses, France, in the end of January, however, she has won every distance race she has competed at.
In the two first laps of classic skiing, a lot of focus had been on staying out of trouble as several skiers fell. After the ski exchange, Andersson and Karlsson set off at a furious pace, getting the gap they wanted to the rest of the field early into the two remaining freestyle laps.
Andersson then made an even stronger push in that Karlsson could not respond to, even after Andersson fell in the speedy downhill section of the third lap. For the remainder of the race, Andersson and Karlsson cruised alone to the two top spots to bring Sweden number four and five of the total of six medals so far given out in Planica’s women’s races.
In the battle for bronze, Slind formed a group of three with Finland’s Kerttu Niskanen and Germany’s Katharina Hennig, who stuck together for most of the skating half of the race.
At the 10km mark, 35-year-old Slind took charge and got a lead that she kept for the remaining third of the race. Finishing 5.3 seconds ahead of fourth-placed Hennig, Slind could crown her world championships debut with a bronze medal, jumping of joy on the podium. Niskanen, three seconds after Hennig, had to settle for a fifth place.
The world championships continue on Sunday with the men’s and women’s team sprint free.
Click here for full results from the women’s 15km skiathlon classic/free.