In a history first-ever medal decision in Ladies' Nordic Combined, Japan’s Ayane Miyazaki crowned herself FIS Junior World Champion in Lahti (FIN). After an intense tactical race in snowy conditions, 3.6 seconds separated her from closest pursuer and silver medallist Gyda Westvold Hansen (NOR). Miyazaki’s teammate Anju Nakamura stormed to the bronze medal from rank 16 and finished her race 18.5 seconds after the winner.
Snowfall had already started during the jumping round in the morning but with blowers in place and even wind conditions, the ladies’ jumping event took place without a hitch. Once more, it was Austrian Lisa Hirner, who jumped to the pole position with a great jump of 90 metres. 107.5 points gave her a narrow head start of 12 seconds on Gyda Westvold Hansen. The Norwegian had 90.5 metres to show for and ten seconds of advantage on last year’s Continental Cup runner-up Miyazaki (87.5 m; 102.1 o.).
Germany’s Maria Gerboth and Jenny Nowak claimed starting positions four and five for the race and had to contend with delays of 36 and 38 seconds. Ringo Miyajima (JPN), Ema Voalvsek (SLO), Silva Verbic (SLO), Anna Jäkle (GER) and Thea Minyan Bjørset (NOR) were on ranks five to ten and started with delays of one mínute and four seconds to one minute and 15 seconds. Anju Nakamura was to be watched for on position 16 (77.5 m; 82.2 p.). A delay of one minute and 41 seconds almost seemed a doable feat for the lightning-fast skier from Japan.
Right on time for the start of the race, it started snowing heavily. Together with the very hard track in Lahti, the Nordic Combined ladies were in for a tough race that played out to be a true nail-biter. Leader Hirner was caught be Gyda Westvold Hansen on the first lap and shortly after, Ayane Miyazaki had also closed the gap to the top athletes. While Miyazaki and Westvold Hansen continued to march away, young Lisa Hirner was no match for the older and stronger athletes yet and fell back.
Maria Gerboth skied a courageous race and finally also closed the gap to Hirner, while teammate Jenny Nowak was not able to follow Gerboth. In the second lap, the first two positions on the podium seemed clear but true to her reputation as an excellent cross-country skier, Anju Nakamura shot through the field and started endangering the bronze position for Maria Gerboth. Going out on the second lap, she overtook Hirner and shortly after also Maria Gerboth fell to the Japanese's high pace. Nakamura was not able to fully close the gap to the front anymore but secured the bronze position.
The dramatic fight for the gold medal played out between Westvold Hansen and Miyazaki. The Norwegian made her move on the last uphill and managed to get a few metres between herself and Miyazaki but the Japanese used the wind shield position behind Westvold Hansen to come back in the following downhill. She shot past the Norwegian in the turn in the stadium and Westvold Hansen had to see that she was not able to turn the tables anymore. In the end, it was Miyazaki who claimed the biggest title of her young career and celebrated joyfully with teammate Nakamura in the finish.
Maria Gerboth finished fourth, Italy’s Daniela Dejori was fifth and the rest of the Top Ten spots went to Ema Volavsek, Anna Jäkle, Jenny Nowak and Anastasia Goncharova, who turned rank 24 into the 10th position.
Ayane Miyazaki (JPN):
"First, I was a little bit nervous about today as the competition was a bit different and the weather was really bad but then I decided to change my attitude and be more positive about today. I think it's because of that that I received a medal today. Winning still came as a big surprise and I am so pleased about it."
Gyda Westvold Hansen (NOR):
"The day was amazing. We were up very early, as usual and we saw that the conditions at the jumping hill were good, so I was looking forward to fight for a good position. Then we waited for the race. The race was harder than I expected it to be because of the snow. But I am very satisfied with my result."
Anju Nakamura (JPN):
"Since today is my 19th birthday, it was such a surprise to get a medal on a day like this. I am really happy about it. Next year, my goal is to get the gold medal this time."