2003 World Championships: Nordic Combined, Womens 30K, Sprints
By Paul Belknap
February 28, 2003
The past few days have been witness to some great days of
racing here in Val di Fiemme. I'm going to start at the most
recent race and move backwards chronologically, mainly because
the last race was just so exciting.
Nordic Combined Sprint
This afternoon was the Nordic Combined sprint event, which
is a little bit different than a cross country sprint. It
is jumping on the large hill, followed by a 7.5 km cross country
leg, which in this case was composed of 2.5 km laps. After
the jumping portion of the race the Americans were Johnny
Spillane (4th, 28 seconds back), Todd Lodwick (26th, 1:42
back), Jed Hinkley (41st, 2:21 back) and Carl Van Loan (49th,
2:52 back). Ahead of Johnny were 3 Germans. The race starts
with a staggered start (like the 2nd half of a pursuit race)
and the first one across the line wins.As the race started
Johnny was hanging with the top two Germans after the one
in third place dropped like a rock. He was trying to bridge
across the gap with Felix Gottwald of Austria. Then he seemed
to be faltering, unable to hold on to Ronny Ackermann, Georg
Hettich and Gottwald. Then, the other three started mucking
about and playing cat and mouse and Johnny was able to just
sit on the back and watch the show. As they went out for the
third lap he was sitting comfortably in the pack with the
Germans and the Austrian, but the cat and mouse had a price,
three Norwegians were closing hard and fast. Would the lead
group be able to hold off the Norwegians? The pace was raised
which held off the Norwegians and then Johnny attacked on
an uphill. He wasn't able to make it stick but then tucked
back into the back of the pack, which was where he was as
they entered stadium. Thanks to some great skis, and some
hard no poles skating he was able to slingshot past the other
three members of the pack on a small uphill over the spectator
access path. After that he didn't look back and with a great
sprint he managed to put the race away with room to throw
his arms in the air as he crossed the finish line, at which
point everyone went nuts! The American coaches could barely
figure out what to do with themselves. Johnny was followed
to the finish line by Ronny Ackermann (GER) and Felix Gottwald
(AUT). Georg Hettich rounded out the lead pack in fourth place.
It was a perfectly, intelligently, skied race by Johnny. With
his victory, he becomes the first ever Nordic World Champion
for the United States!
Other Americans (all of whom moved up during the cross country
portion of the race): Todd Lodwick, 19th Jed Hinkley, 37th
Carl Van Loan, 41st.
The only Canadian racer was Jason Myslicki, who ended up 33rd.
A couple of final notes about this race:
A big pat on the back should go out to the waxing staff. They've
been doing a great job the whole World Championships. We've
consistently had very fast skis, and Johnny was on a pair
of rockets today. I've run into Johnny's family on busses
and such a bunch during the week. I saw them after the race
and they were understandably estatic. They deserve a pat on
the back as well for all the support they've given Johnny.
Womens 30K Freestyle
Now we have to move on to the next race, the Women's 30 km freestyle, which
took place this morning. The Italian hopes were riding high on finally
getting a medal in this event, and things started out well for them with
Gabriella Paruzzi and Sabina Valbusa posting the fastest early and
intermediate splits. However, as the kilometers started to pile up, other
skiers started to look as if they were catching up. In the end, Italy just
missed out on the medals with Russians Olga Savialova and Elena Burukina
taking first and second, respectively. Coming in third was Kristina Smigun
For the North Americans Beckie Scott once again led the charge. She started
slow, but then moved up to finish 10th. She was followed by teammate Sara
Renner in 13th. The sole American in the race was Aubrey Smith who skied a
tough race to a 39th place finish. Finally, the last Canadian was Tasha
Betcherman in 43rd.
Now we'll move back past a rest day (for both the athletes
and me) to the sprints and talk about the ladies first. Beckie
Scott of Canada qualified second and Sara Renner was 11th.
Through the elimination sprints both Canadian women looked
strong with Scott blowing away her semi-final to advance to
the "A" final, while Renner managed to move to the "B" final,
though both women seemed to be fighting slow skis. In the
B final Sara Renner hung on for 7th. In her A final, Scott's
slower skis really seemed to hurt her, and she placed 4th
behing a podium of Marit Bjoergen (NOR), Claudia Kuenzel (GER),
and Hilde G. Pederson (NOR).
None of the American women qualified for the sprints. They were:
Kikkan Randall, 39th
Wendy Wagner, 42nd
Aubrey Smith, 44th
Aelin Peterson, 46th
And now for the men. All through the elimination heats, defending World and
Olympic Champion Tor Arne Hetland of Norway seemed to be on great form, but
the Italians were hoping for a meltdown for Hetland and a victory for their
own "Zorro" Cristian Zorzi. Well, things didn't work out quite in their favor
in the semi-finals, Hetland stayed strong, and neither of the Italians who
had made it that far made it to the A final. This left Zorzi, Freddy
Schweinbacher (ITA), Russia's Vasili Rotchev, and Martin Koukal (CZE) to duke
it out for 5-8th places. Zorzi skied to 8th place, opting to save himself for
the 50k on Saturday with Koukal taking 5th, "Schweinbo" taking 6th, and
Rotchev in 7th.
Going into the A final, Hetland had to be the favorite, given the form that he
had been displaying. He was joined by teammate (and Norwegian sprint champ)
Haarvard Bjerkeli, Tobias Angerer of Germany, and Thobias Fredriksson (SWE).
After the last uphill Hetland was running in 4th place but due to a pair of
rocket fast skis was able to move up to third on the downhill that followed.
He tried to keep up the momentum going into a hairpin turn leading to the
finishing straight. By the time they were around the turn he had moved in
equal to the lead, and was trying to push it over the small rise over the
spectator access, and led out the sprint. For a second it looked like he
might take it, then it became obvious that he had gone out too hard, to soon
and that no one was going to be able to match the Swede's Fredriksson's final
kick. Bjerkeli outsprinted his countryman for 2nd, and Angerer rounded out
the sprint in 4th.
None of the North Americans qualified for the sprinting.
Their qualification places were: Andrew Newell, 31st Torin
Koos, 32nd Carl Swenson, 38th Lars Flora, 44th Drew Goldsack,
50th Devon Kershaw, 51st Dan Roycroft, 53rd.
That about wraps it up for now. Tomorrow the final event, the Men's 50km
As USSA likes to put it, and now its true: Best in the
Johnny Spillane in the lead pack
During the medal ceremony