Even by Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo’s standards, this was something special. Already cross-country’s greatest ever sprinter – and arguably greatest skier – at just 26, the Norwegian became triple world champion over his favourite distance with victory in the Classic at the Planica 2023 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships on Thursday.
But this was far from the whole story. In treacherous conditions, Klaebo watched many of his would-be rivals fall and falter. The morning’s fastest qualifier, Erik Valnes of Norway, and France’s Richard Jouve – a winner of two World Cup sprint classics this season – were among those who failed to reach the final. Freestyle specialist Federico Pellegrino (ITA) also struggled with the course as well as the classic technique.
But as others crashed out, Klaebo stayed out of trouble, hitting the front in each of the three qualifying rounds and staying there. Then, in the final, he simply blew the field away, building on his trademark fast start so that by the time he hit the home straight, he was so far ahead that he didn’t even need to deploy the double poling technique.
Despite a celebratory wave to the crowd 50 metres from the finish and a casual cruise across the line, he was able to post the fastest time of the day. Compatriot Paal Golberg snatched silver ahead of a jubilant Jules Chappaz – which came as some consolation after a disappointing day for his fellow Frenchmen.
“I think it was a lot of fun racing here,” Klaebo said, in stark contrast to many in the field. “The track is a lot of fun – a lot of turns and quite difficult – and it’s the first time in a long time we’ve seen so many people falling on sprint day. And, for sure, having as good legs as I had in the final there was amazing.”
But did he not find the conditions just a little tough?
“It is what it is. The weather, we can’t do something about it, we just need to deal with it. I had great skis today and the conditions were pretty good as well. I’m really satisfied.”
The world championships continue with the men’s 30km skiathlon on Saturday.
Click here for the full results from the men’s sprint classic.