Bronze of the Ardent, Ustyugov skirmish with Klebo and the fall in the women's final: how the ski sprints at the World Championships in Zefeld ended
Russian skier Gleb Retivykh won the bronze medal at the World Championships in Austrian Zefeld. In the final, he lost only to Johannes Klebo and Federico Pelligrino, who took the first and second places respectively. The competition was also marked by the skirmish of the Norwegian and Sergei Ustyugov after the semi-final race, during which the future champion cut the Russian and stepped on his skis. The best among women was the Norwegian Mikken Caspersen Fall.
The World Championships in ski sports in Zefeld started in full force. It began with qualifying races for skiers from exotic countries, and on Thursday there was a draw for the first medals - in the personal sprint style of the race for men and women.
For Russian athletes this discipline could be called the most mysterious. On the one hand, this season it is hardly possible to recall at least one race in the World Cup, in which the domestic skiers would not be considered favorites. For the World Cup this situation is also quite true.
But on the other hand, it was the sprint, and it was with the ridge that rarely pleased the Russian fans. There were only two medals in the 14 races of the season - silver by Gleb Retivykh at the stage in Dresden, where many favorites did not arrive, and Sergey Ustyugov took second place in the “Tour de Ski”. Natalya Nepryaeva and Yuliya Belorukova once occupied the fourth places. In the most popular ski discipline today, Russians sometimes did not stand up to competition, and not only the Norwegians made it up.
The first medal day at the World Championships started with a women's qualification. The Russian team was represented by Natalya Nepryaeva, Natalya Matveyeva, Yulia Belorukova and Elena Soboleva. Outside the top 30, which runs into the quarter-finals, was only Sobolev. The 27-year-old athlete showed the 34th result due to her back worrying since the Tour de Ski days.
The rest settled down each in his top ten - Vice-Leader of the World Cup Nepryaeva became the ninth, the bronze medalist of the Olympics in the sprint classics Belorukova took 18th place, Natalia Matveeva was selected with the 23rd result. The main favorites had no problems with qualifying, and some of them, such as Swede Stina Nilsson and Norwegian Maiken Caspersen Fall, saved their strength. Is that the early departure of the champion of Norway Lotta Weng and three Finns at the head, led by Anne Különen, could have surprised.
Male selection was no less rich in events. Sergei Ustyugov showed the second result, losing only one hundredth of a second to Swede Victor Thorn, who had never reached the finals of the sprint at the World Cup. Surely went to the quarter-finals and Gleb Retive, who took 14th place. It was followed by the wagon Artem Maltsev, who became the 19th.
Alexander Bolshunov hardest nerves. One of the leaders of the World Cup held a not very successful race and almost ended up outside the top thirty. He showed only the 29th time - if the four-time Olympic medalist had covered the 1.6-kilometer distance by two tenths of a second slower, he would have stopped the fight for medals. However, everything worked out, and Bolshunov did not repeat the fate of the Swede Theodore Peterson - the silver medalist of the Sochi Olympics in the sprint covered the skis immediately after the prologue.
The first quarterfinal race among women reduced the representation of Russia. Belorukova, speaking with painted flags on her cheeks, in the company of Nilsson and Norwegian Christine Skistad, immediately found herself at the tail of the peloton and did not have time to get ahead. She only managed to finish fourth with a low result for reaching the semifinals.
The next race was a duel between Falla and Nepyaeva. For the most part of the distance, they drove one another, so the race was supposed to be super-fast. But in the last slight ascent between them, the Swede Yonne Sundling suddenly wedged in. Falla retained first place, and Nepryaeva and Sundling determined the strongest at the photo finish. The Swede was four hundredths faster, so the Russian skier had to wait for the remaining results to get into the semi-final in the status of lacquer-loser. Fortunately, all the races were much slower, including the one in which Matveyeva took fifth place.
The men's quarter-finals began with a hidden finale - Ustyugov, who could easily choose any other race, according to the draw rules, would join the company for Johannes Klebo and Finn Hagen Krog, but preferred to compete with the Norwegians.
In the rise of the Russians showed all his strength - he even created a gap between himself and the Scandinavians. By the end of the distance, Ustyugov still let his rivals approach him, but Krogh did not have enough strength to finish the spurt. Russian finished second behind Klebo.
Krog was considered lacquer-loser not for long - before the third race, in which Bolshunov had to make up for lost time. The contact fight was more to his liking, and he willingly led the very strong group of participants along with him. The sensational winner of the qualification Torn could not stand this pace. But besides Bolshunova and powerful Italian Francesco De Fabiani, the forces after the ascent were preserved by the Frenchman Luca Shanava and the American Simeon Hamilton. The four of them held the fastest race, and the Russian, although he finished third, could not worry about his ticket to the semifinals. Krog remained behind the competition - the US representative won him one hundredth of a second.
Artyom Maltsev failed to break through to the semifinals - the young athlete was not given a way to the finish line, so he had no opportunity to approach the Norwegian Emil Iversen. But it’s nice that Gleb Retivev figured out the last few meters with his rivals. The only net sprinter in the Russian national team rolled out to finish fifth, but became the winner of his race.
The draw for the women's semi-final proved to be very cruel towards the Scandinavian teams. In the first race three Norwegians and two Swedes came together. They were going in a fair fight at the finish to play four tickets to the final (otherwise they could not be with their speed), but the fall of Skiestad made it easier for the rivals. Falla and Nilsson went directly to the medal race, and Sundling and Marie Eide from Norway began to wait for the results of the Nepryaeva race.
Nominally, the second race was weaker, but the Russian was almost the only distance worker in it. On one of the corners, Nepryaeva made an unforgivable mistake and threw forward her rivals, whose chances were no longer to catch up. In a race with a classic move, a native of Tver would still have a chance, but not in a skate. Nepryaeva finished fifth and finished the fight.
Next Ustyugov tried to get into the final. This time, he did not attack in the climb, but accelerated a little later, so in the second third of the distance he went side by side with Klebo, Di Fabiani and current world champion Federico Pelligrino. Because of this, the most controversial episode of the competition took place closer to the finish - Ustyugov tried to pass Klebo around the inside radius before turning, but the Norwegian “slammed the gate” sharply, cutting off the opponent and not letting him go. The Russian has lost a lot of time and energy in this fight and came to the finish line only fifth. Where almost made a fight, first nudging the Norwegian in the shoulder, and then slapping his cheek.
As a result, after the end of the competition, Ustyugov was disqualified, and his result in the sprint race was annulled.
In the second semifinal, the skiers immediately stepped up the pace in order to decide for themselves who will become a lucky loser and make it to the final. Bolsunov no longer had the strength to continue the struggle, but he tried to work out the distance so that Gleb Retivykh retained the chances for medals. This plan worked, and at the finish the Russian sprinter took the necessary fourth place.
In the women's medal race, the Swedes could well have used command tactics against the Norwegians, they were three against Falla and not claiming Eide for anything. However, instead, the winner of the qualification Maya Dalqvist fell before going to the stadium and blocked the way for her teammates.
Falla also took advantage of the moment to defend the title of world champion. Stine Nilsson had enough strength to get to the silver medal, and Eide, who had never won personal medals at the World Cup, unexpectedly won the bronze medal in Zefeld.
The men's race for the awards was rather curious. Klebo, Iversen, Pellegrino, Retive and two Frenchmen Luke Shanava and Richard Jouw almost walked up the hill and stopped at the highest point - no one wanted to go first on the descent and run the other ski run. The race did continue, and at the high-speed section of the Retives, he was able to go to the third place after Klebo and Pellegrino.
The Russian kept him to the finish, beating Zhuva’s timid attacks. At the age of 27, a native of the Perm Territory with an unsuccessful reputation, finally won the first big career award. And Klebo confirmed the title of the best skier, leaving the Italian behind him. Three-time Olympic champion for the first time in his career became the world champion.