Questions to Bolshunov and the weather
After his victory in skiathlon at the World Championships, Alexander Bolshunov, paradoxically, almost deprived himself of a chance for a medal in the next type of program - a free-style team sprint.
He spent a lot of energy to win the 30-kilometer race, and the coaching staff at first believed that it would be better for him to spend Sunday recovering, and Sergei Ustyugov and Gleb Retivykh would have to start.
But shortly after the men's skiathlon, the head of the Russian Cross-Country Skiing Federation, Elena Vyalbe, announced that a replacement was planned for the team.
Ustyugov refused to participate, citing pain in his leg, which has been bothering him for a whole week after falling in training.
I had to consider the option in which the young Alexander Terentyev would become a partner of the Zealous, but still the choice fell in favor of the newly-minted world champion.
This line-up had already won silver two years ago, but this time it was decided to swap the skiers - the pure sprinter Retivykh was supposed to finish.
For women, the composition for the team sprint did not cause any doubts.
Yulia Stupak and Natalya Nepryaeva ran together at the last World Championships and the Olympics in Pyeongchang, and so far no one has convinced the coaches that one of them needs a replacement.
Only in their duet, too, it was not without a rearrangement, and Nepryaeva should have finished the race instead of Stupak.
On the day of the competition, it became known that the usual format of the competition had changed.
The organizers feared that due to the warm weather, the selection for the final will be held in unequal conditions, as the track will get worse with each race.
Therefore, they allowed four duets to go directly to the decisive race instead of two, and only two in time.
For Russian skiers, this did not become any significant problem.
At first, Stupak and Nepryaeva lost only to the Swedes Maya Dalkvist and Jonne Sundling in the second semi-final, which, contrary to forecasts, even turned out to be faster than the first.
A few minutes later, Bolshunov and Zetivykh became the second in their race, letting the powerful duet of Norwegians Eric Valnes and Johannes Klebo go ahead.
Even with the previous format, the Russians would confidently make it to the final.
The feat of Stupak and the disappointment of Nepryaeva
The decisive race for women began with the fall of the Finnish woman Krista Pärmäkoski, which reminded both Stupak and other favorites of how important it is to run in the first positions, especially on such a broken track like in Oberstdorf.
In the first four stages, the Russians maintained the pace of the leaders, and only at the end did Nepryaeva let the champion in the personal sprint Sundling go a little ahead.
Stupak was able to eliminate the backlog of Dalkvist and, with her last strength, rushed to create a gap for her team.
The vice-champion in the 2017 team sprint brilliantly overcame two hills and passed the baton simultaneously with the Swede.
At that moment, the other teams had already lost at least three seconds, and it seemed that Sundling and Nepryaeva would play gold and silver against each other.
But the last climb of the Russian skier did not submit.
At that moment, when it was necessary to fully engage in the work, Nepryaeva slowed down and let the Swiss Nadine Fendrich pass ahead, and the Slovenian Anamaria Lampic approached her from behind.
At the finish line, the Russian woman lost to her too.
For the second time in a row, the Russians stopped at a medal step in the team sprint.
The Swedes celebrated their second victory in a row, while the Swiss won the first silver in their history in the women's competition.
- FIS Cross-Country (@FISCrossCountry) February 28, 2021
Bolshunov's second medal in two days
In the men's final, Bolshunov shattered the myth that he needed a rest after skiathlon.
If at the first stage he was still holding back, then at the second he did not have a single drop of self-pity.
Bolshunov attacked the climbs as rapidly as the day before during the finish of the skiathlon.
Neither Valnes nor other skiers could hold on to the Russian, and in the first half of the distance he was two seconds ahead of the Norwegian.
Zealous saved energy to the finish and ran quite calmly in his second stage.
For some time this allowed him to maintain a lead over Klebo and the dangerous Italian Federico Pellegrino, but by the end of the distance the Norwegian decided to accelerate and caught up with the Russian skier.
Bolshunov in response again began to tear the veins, trying to escape from his rivals.
The next attack was even more successful than the previous one - he had already won four seconds against Valnes.
The Norwegian stayed in second place and brought the Finn Ristomatti Hakola with him.
Other teams no longer claimed medals, and it was quite unexpected to see the Finnish duo in the top three.
He made it to the medal race from last place and only thanks to the fact that Yoni Mäki miraculously stayed on his feet after a collision at the finish of the semifinals.
The zealous only had to keep the four-second lead.
But Klebo clearly felt confident in himself when he overcame the hills at the last stage, and immediately joined the struggle.
Its backlog began to rapidly decrease.
The most surprising thing was not even how he started working long before the final showdown, but the fact that Mäki continued to sit behind him all this time.
When the Scandinavians caught up with the Zealous, Klebo continued to run in the style of Bolshunov to his fifth gold medal, and the Finn stayed next to the Russian, offering to play for silver at the finish line.
As in the relay at the World Cup in Lahti, Mäki took over the much more experienced and titled Russian skier, only now in a pure struggle and without scandal.
Bolshunov and Retivykh won bronze medals, leaving open the question of how the race would have developed if the World Cup winner were still the finisher.
Klebo turned on some kind of space speed at the finish of the team sprint and flew away from the Zealous 🌪🌪🌪
Gleb at the finish also lost to the Finnish skier.
Today we are with bronze 🥉 pic.twitter.com/Gv9gSL8BhD
- Match TV (@MatchTV) February 28, 2021