The final of the Cup of Russia in cross-country skiing in Kirovsk opened on Friday with a separate start of the classic style.
The first awards were played by girls who staged a real sports performance. Almost all the leaders came to the start, with the exception of Anastasia Faleeva, who fell ill during the recent national championship. But the Olympic champions Natalia Nepryaeva and Veronika Stepanova, who missed the competitions in Tyumen, who still fight with each other for victory in the overall Standings of the Cup, recovered and returned to the track. Before the final, they were separated by only 7 points.
It was expected that the ward of Yegor Sorin would fight for the gold of the cutting, but the race for the 22-year-old athlete was not set. After the first third of the distance, Veronika was behind Nepryaeva, who expectedly seized the lead, by almost 20 seconds, and this gap only increased with each kilometer. Stepanova's result at the finish was 37.8 seconds worse than the first place, which allowed her to become only sixth.
Nepryaeva fully justified her status as a favorite, showing the best time at all cut-offs of the distance up to the finish. The only athlete who was able to challenge Natalia was Anastasia Prokofieva. The 27-year-old skier started one of the last and had the opportunity to focus on the results of her rivals. She did not give her all from the first meters of the distance, but at the mark of 6.5 km she came close to the ward of Yuri Borodavko - they were separated by only a second.
True, then Anastasia again fell back a little, and, according to her own words, at the final kilometer she thought only about not missing the second place in the fight with Maria Istomina. But Prokofieva's zeal was so great that she created a sensation and came to the finish with exactly the same time as Nepryaeva. In the cuttings, a photo finish is not used due to the peculiarities of the start - athletes go to a distance of three seconds - so it was decided to award two gold medals. The skiers took the incident with humor, saying that they were ready to make room on the pedestal. At the same time, Nepryaeva admitted that the race was incredibly difficult for her.
"I am absolutely dissatisfied with my state of health. It's not my style to complain, but I'm not happy with my skis or feeling. I hope that further I will gain condition and it will be easier. It's a very tough race today, most likely because of the big pass. If tomorrow is better, then it will be good," Nepryaeva said on Match TV.
Third place was retained by Istomina. Ekaterina Smirnova, who started later, tried to attack her result, but at the finish she lost not only to Maria, but also to Daria Rogozina, who eventually became the fourth.
In the overall standings of the Cup of the country among men, there has long been no intrigue. Alexander Bolshunov before the final was ahead of the nearest pursuer Ilya Semikov by a phenomenal 259 points.
But for the second position with the representative of Komi could still compete Ivan Yakimushkin and Artem Maltsev. And it seemed that the native of Nizhny Novgorod would succeed. Artem started through one person from Semikov and at first showed a more confident move, but by the cut-off of 5 km he was inferior to him by 7 seconds, and then only rolled down the table.
Ilya, in the course of the race, focused on the result of Evgeny Belov and, bypassing him by 15.3 seconds, began to wait for the finish of competitors. Among those who went along the distance behind him, not counting Bolshunov, the danger was posed by Alexei Chervotkin and Denis Spitsov, but in their course it quickly became clear that the struggle would unfold only for the third place with Belov.
And then the representative of Tyumen was more lucky, who was caught up with Bolshunov at the distance. The three-time Olympic champion by that time had already driven the competitors for almost a minute and was in no hurry, so until the very finish he and his partner in the coaching group walked together, alternately changing places. And in the final goal, they did arrange a spectacular duel. Largely due to this, as well as the excellent work of the skis, Denis, who at first was inferior to both Semikov and Belov, managed to gnaw 4 seconds from the countryman at the last kilometer and break into the third step of the pedestal. Chervotkin was content with fifth place.
"Today I will not get tired of thanking our service and the work of my favorite skis. Today they did absolutely everything, despite my not the best condition. I came here after the marathon, my throat was drying, my nose was laying. I was generally hesitant to go to the start or not. Thanks to such skis, I could not just walk, I struggled and from the first kilometers I understood that, despite not the fastest start, I played on the descents, "Spitsov shared after the finish.
Bolshunov, in turn, said that he had to run on a completely different pair of skis that the servicemen tested before the race, since 15 minutes before the start the weather changed dramatically. According to the athlete, it was so hot on the track that he wanted to remove not only his hat and gloves, but also his entire overalls. Also, the skier admitted that he somewhat overdid it with the pace on the first lap, which even led to a fall on the turn in the area of the cut-off of 3.7 km.
"Today I started quickly, I wanted to play everywhere. But such an incident happened that he interfered with himself, put a stick, tripped. Then I calmed down a little, realizing that I was winning and I needed to run my race, "said Alexander.
Semikov was pleased with getting on the podium, because thanks to the silver medal he retained the second place in the overall standings of the tournament.
"Of course, a big lag behind Sani Bolshunov, but the second place is good. It turned out to be good to pass two laps, and on the last one I was a little short. I am glad that I endured," the athlete said.
The final stage of the Russian Cup will continue on Sunday with sprint races.