SOLDIER HOLLOW, UT (Feb. 4, 2017) - Norway’s Lotta Udnes Weng closed out the USANA FIS U23 World Championships with gold in the skiathlon at Soldier Hollow. Weng came from behind to overtake Finland’s Johanna Matintalo, who took silver. Russia’s Yana Kirpichenko won bronze.
A stronger classic skier, Matintalo took an early lead in the opening 7.5k classic leg, battling back and forth with Lotta’s twin sister Tirol Udnes Weng, who was second at the exchange. Matintalo carried a three second margin over Tiril Weng at the halfway mark.
In the freestyle leg, Matintalo continued to lead with Kirpichenko and Lotta Weng skiing up to join the battle. On the final climb before dropping into the stadium, Lotta Weng put on a final push to take the lead and build a small gap. She won by 3.8 seconds over Matintalo, with Kirpichenko another 10 seconds back.
The gold medalist is a first-time U23 competitor who was sixth in the classic sprint to open the Championships. Weng is a six-time Junior Worlds medalist.
The U23 World Championships concluded with the skiathlon, with the final Junior Worlds relays set for Sunday.
Lotta Udnes Weng, Norway
The Finnish girl went very fast in the classic but I knew I would be better in skate. I was just trying to hang behind the girls. I knew I would have a good sprint and I was just trusting it.
We skied together through the last uphill, so it was pretty tight and she was really strong today. I was using a lot of power on the last uphill so I had the gap I needed.
On paper, this is not my best distance. But I knew I could do well in both classic and skate and that if I had a really good day I could ski for a gold medal but there were a lot of good girls out there today.
Johanna Matintalo, Finland
Classic is my best style, I’m not as good in skating. My plan was to keep a good pace in classic so that the others would be tired. On the skating leg, know I lost a minute to the other girls. So if the other girls weren’t tired after the classic, there wouldn’t be a medal for me.
This medal is a real victory for me. Last year I was fourth in the 5k classic at Junior Worlds, losing the medal by three seconds. So I decided someday I would get a medal. I thought maybe next year with the 10k classic. So I’m pretty surprised I got the medal here today - I just didn’t think I was going to be able to follow them.
U23 Ladies 7.5 km C + 7.5 km F Skiathlon
1. WENG Lotta Udnes NOR 40:50.9
2. MATINTALO Johanna FIN +3.8
3. KIRPICHENKO Yana RUS +13.9
4. WENG Tiril Udnes NOR +15.6
5. DAHLQVIST Maja SWE +21.0
Russian Trio Shares Medals Again
Russia swept the podium once again, this time with a trio of athletes crossing the line together in the men’s 15k/15k skiathlon at Soldier Hollow. Alexander Bolshunov was awarded gold, Alexey Chervotkin the silver and Denis Spitsov the bronze.
The three had skied together nearly the entire 30k race, wall ahead of a chase group of Jules Lapierre of France and Jason Rueesch of Switzerland.
As the three Russians came off the final hill after a grueling 30k, they locked arms on the downhill and coasted together into the stadium. As they came to the finish line, they stopped in unison seeking to cross together.
The competition jury reviewed timing and scoring records, along with photo assets and records of the finish referee, to ensure that the ranking was correct. According to FIS rules, the boot toe crossing the line is the determining factor (ICR 316.4.1).
It was the second straight gold for Bolshunov, who won the 15k freestyle two days earlier.
U23 Men's 15 km C + 15 km Skiathlon
1. BOLSHUNOV Alexander RUS 01:15:31.5
2. CHERVOTKIN Alexey RUS +0.2
3. SPITSOV Denis RUS +0.5
4. LAPIERRE Jules FRA +11.5
5. RUEESCH Jason SUI +14.3