Monday, February 28, 2011

Oslo Worlds Medal Table

The only medals table I can find is the Worlds organizers', which includes all the sports being contested at Oslo - cross-country, jumping, and nordic combined. Here's a table of just the cross-country skiing medals. Scroll right to see a details the medalists and events.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Marit's Chances

I considered Thursday's freestyle sprints to be hors d'œuvres for the rest of the World Championships, so I was happy the semis and the finals were all excellent competitions - even if the North Americans did not quite ski up to expectations. Marit Bjørgen and Marcus Hellner both skied tough, clean races that they won on strength and speed - not luck or even guile.

While Bjørgen's gold was more or less expected, especially after Kikkan Randall crashed out, Hellner's was surprising. He fearlessly went off the front early in the final and then, marvelously, stayed away right up to the line, where he had a chance to kick up one ski à la Thomas Alsgaard in the '03 Worlds relay. Hellner's gold proves that Northug can be beaten in a sprint - you just have to go off the front before he expects it and then not let up. (Axel Teichmann, please note this.)

Saturday's women's pursuit is the first distance race of the Worlds, and the first chance for Bjørgen to add to her collection of major-event gold medals, now standing at eight (including team events: five at Worlds and three at the Olympics; individually: three at Worlds and two at the Olympics).

In fact, I'd have to say - based on both her form this year and my inveterate Norge-philia - that there's an outside chance Bjørgen could win every race at Worlds. She's clearly the favorite in any distance event, she's got to be half of Norway's team sprint, and of course she's the logical anchor for the relay.

Can she win six golds in Oslo? Sure she can. Will she? I don't think so. Even top-notch racers can choose to sit out a race (Petra Majdic is skipping the women's pursuit and Bauer is not racing the men's pursuit, and of course Bjørgen could get hurt or sick. Barring any of those circumstances, though, I wouldn't expect her to win fewer than four golds (sprint, team sprint, relay, and one of the individual distance races) - and to medal in the other two events. For whatever it's worth, I join the rest of the ski world in picking her to win Saturday's pursuit.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oslo, Finally

With or without Andrus Veerpalu, the Oslo World Ski Championships are underway. A New Zealander and a Dane won today's qualifying races, but I think the freestyle sprint podiums will include the usual suspects:

I can't wait...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

North American Skiing's Best-Ever Day

Today's freestyle sprints at Drammen have to rank up as the best-ever day for North American cross-country skiing: Canadian Alex Harvey took second behind only Emil Jönsson and ahead of Petter Northug in the men's race, and American Kikkan Randall won the women's race, which included an out-of-the-running Marit Bjørgen. And both results sheets had plenty of other good results. On the men's side, Len Valjas (CAN) finished ninth and Andy Newell (USA) finished eighteenth; on the women's side, Chandra Crawford (CAN) finished fourteenth and Dasha Gaiazova finished twentieth. (Minnsotan Jessie Diggins finished 46th, failing to make the heats but winding up ahead of some serious skiers, like Norwegian Marthe Kristoffersen.)

The only way Sunday's results will be eclipsed if Harvey, Randall, or others take medals on Thursday in the freestyle sprints at Worlds.

Oddly enough, the top four women all had double-L names: Randall, Falla, Kalla, Follis - what do you make of that, Statistical Skier?

(Photo courtesy of Swix Nordic.)

Drammen Sprints

The freestyle sprints at Konnerud are already under way, but I'll post the predictions I made yesterday anyhow. With the best Russian men missing, we're not getting a true picture of that field, but the women's field is as full of fast racers as it will be next Thursday, when the freestyle sprints will happen at Holmenkollen.

Friday, February 18, 2011


The Oslo Worlds are less than a week away, just the other side of the last tune-up races at Drammen, Norway. Not the familiar (and, frankly, awesome) city-center sprints of the last few years, this year's events are being held at the Konnerud winter-sports park just outside Drammen.

The stakes are high, of course. The Czech head coach Miroslav Petrasek - who has some decent skiers on his squad - said, "You don’t have to win but if you are not in top ten, you can forget a medal from the Worlds. Top shape won’t come in a week." On the other hand, a commentator for Norwegian TV finds that doing too well just before Worlds means you probably won't be in the right form to win there:
In front of the last eight championships (Olympics and World Championships) has the winner of the general test of distance has never been an individual gold medalist. The last one was able feat in the men's side was Mika Myllylä. He won both the final race before the World Championships in Ramsau in 1999, and became king of the tournament with three gold and a silver individually.
So let me curse some skiers with my predictions over at XC Predictions for the Drammen distance events - 10/15km interval-start classic races:

In addition to these ten racers, I'd add the following athletes to the pool of skiers whom Petrasek would see as possible distance-event winners in Oslo:

Petter Northug
Devon Kershaw
Alexander Legkov
Maxim Vylegzhanin
Tobias Angerer

Arianna Follis
Marianna Longa
Charlotte Kalla
Krista Lahteenmaki
Astrid U. Jacobsen

It'll be interesting to see if Petrasek and/or the NRK blogger is right - that the top 10 at Drammen will supply the medalists at Oslo, but the the Drammen winners won't be on the podiums at Oslo.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Holmen Cow!

The Oslo Worlds organizers just put up a fascinating page about the 30 and 50km tracks at Holmenkolllen - "the world's hardest ski course." The women's course - can we call it Marit's Regret?- is actually 31.6km in length and includes 1,193 of climbing - 61m more than the previous record, at Torino. (The Vancouver 30 included a mere 1,056 meters of climbing.)

Even more impressively, the "50km" race is actually 2,860 meters (five percent!) longer than that, and contains more climbing than any other racecourse in the world - 1,998 meters worth. The course profile is almost as awesome as the races - freestyle mass starts (Saturday, March 5 for the women, Sunday, March 6 for the men) - should be.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Man. vs. Machine

Forget racing the 50km, Marit: how about racing a Pisten Bully?