2003 World Championships: Mens Pursuit, Relay
By Paul Belknap
February 25, 2003
Mama Mia! The last few days have been quite the rollercoaster
for fans of the United States here at the Nordic World Championships.
With Sunday came the men's pursuit. Hopes were running high
after Kris Freeman's stunning performance in the 15 km classic.
The race stayed tight with lots of attacks and lots of lead
changes happening the whole race. A couple of attacks went
away but all got pulled in, and best of all both Kris and
Carl Swenson managed to stick with the lead pack though it
all. The format was three 3.3 km laps for each of the races
in the pursuit. At the beginning of the last lap, Carl Swenson
led the field up the first climb and into the woods. During
the lap some changing around took place and push Carl and
Kris back a little bit in the field. Per Elofsson outsprinted
the field for the win over Tore Ruun Hofstad (in a field that
conspicuously lacked Thomas Alsgaard). Elofsson was joined
on the podium by his teammate Joergen Brink who just edged
out Liechtenstein's Markus Hasler for third place. Axel Teichman
of Germany rounded out the top five. Swenson sprinted in for
a great 11th place just ahead of Frode Estil of Norway. Freeman
followed in 14th only 8.2 seconds from Elofsson! The other
Americans in the race were Andrew Johnson (38th, +1:37) and
Justin Wadsworth (48th, +2:02). The Canadians were Chris Jefferies
(51st) +2:36, Devon Kershaw (55th) +2:45, George Grey (62nd)
+4:58, Gordon Jewett (63rd) +5:42.
Monday will be short and sweet. Neither Canada nor the US chose to enter a
team, so well just sum things up real quick. Germany won, with Finland taking
second and Norway (without a sick Bente Skari) took 3rd. The victory was great
for Finland, which is still struggling to maintain interest after the doping
scandal that desimated their male team at the 2001 world championships. In the
afternoon we hung around to watch the United States Nordic Combined Team take a
strong fifth. They were extremely happy to get 5th since only half of the
squad competes on the 'A' world cup. They were pulled back up to fifth by
their strongest skier Todd Lodwick.
Tuesday was a rollercoaster in itself. This was the Men's relay, and both the
Canadians and the United States would be competing. The format was two 5km
laps for every leg of the relay. Things got started out on the right foot as
Kris Freeman moved up into the lead pack very quickly after a slow start in the
stadium. As the field began the second lap of the first leg Freeman was
leading the field in pursuit of Switzerlands Reto Burgemeister. When they came
back into the stadium Freeman was in the lead 3.1 seconds up on Switzerland and
20 seconds up on the rest of the field! He tagged off to Andrew Johnson fought
gallantly, and managed to maintain reasonable contact through the first 5 km,
but seemed to hit a wall on the second lap and ended up losing over a minute.
He tagged off to Justin Wadsworth, who struggled and lost more time ending up
three minutes off of the lead in 15th (out of 16 teams to finish) when he
tagged off to Carl Swenson. Swenson managed to bring back three teams
(including ousprinting Austria) to finish in 12th place for the race. He had
the fifth fastest final lap, only 18 seconds off of the pace. Up front Norway
looked out of it after the classic legs for the first time in recent memory
(probably all of my young life). After Per Elofsson turned in a great third
lap, Sweden looked to have wrapped things up with Norway 22 seconds off the
pace. But Thomas Alsgaard (Norway) and Axel Teichman of Germany went on the
attack and chewed up Sweden and spit them out the back. In the final sprint,
Alsgaard confirmed that when it really counts, he's still the best. Teichman
got second followed by Sweden. Another story for the day. Italy, which was
counting on a medal for the day ended up being a non-factor after an attrocious
first leg by Fabio Maj and lackluster laps by the rest of their skiers.
A shout out to the Canadian team. They got dead last (Denmark got lapped), but
they were skiing their hearts out the whole race (by themselves for the most
part). I think they deserve a huge pat on the back for the effort they put in.
Tomorrow is the sprints for both men and women.