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(Hit "Refresh" for Latest Update)
December 1 - The World Cup Begins
December 7 - Capol New FIS Race Director (+Davos WC)
December 11 - Clusone WC Sprints
December 15 - Cogne World Cups
January 4 - A World Cup Backlog
January 13 - Another Swedish Victory in Otepaa
January 27 - Czech & Oberhof World Cups
World Championship Special
March 6 - Holmenkollen Sprint
March 8 - Holmenkollen 30/50 + New Doping Scandal
March 11 - Drammen Sprint
March 22 - Sprint World Cup Finale
March 27 - Final World Cup Standings

 Autumn News 2003

Australian Team
2002/2003 Teams
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Summer 2002/2003 Updates
March 27 - Final World Cup Standings
The last weekend of World Cup was full of action with close finishes in both the duathlon and relay events. Matthias Fredriksson from Sweden and Bente Skari from Norway already had the overall World Cup titles well in hand, but just to top it off they finished off the season with victories in the last individual events as well. Both managed impressively to break away from the lead packs in tough wet and slow conditions and go on to win with clear if not comfortable margins. In the women's duathlon it was a 6 person sprint (with another 11 skiers only a few seconds behind) for the other podium spots, with Sachenbacher from Germany coming from behind to get up for second ahead of Savialova from Russia. Similarly the men's pursuit saw Estil from Norway take second place ahead of Brink from Sweden in a 7-way sprint.

In the relay's the next day the slow snow conditions made it again extremely difficult for teams to break away for good. Almost without fail every leg in both relays saw skiers managing to get a small gap leading into the change only to see a big pack come together again soon in the next leg, when no-one up front wanted to lead or go hard. In the women's relay 6 teams - Belarus, Norway, Finlad, Russia, Germany, and Italy were all in contact on the last leg. Finally Sachenbacher made a small gap for Germany and managed to hold off Skari from Norway by just 2 seconds, with Italy another 2 seconds back in 3rd. In the men's relay Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Germany, and Italy seemed to be clear on the last leg, before Koukal from the Czech Republic bridged a 35 second gap to join the leaders and even for a while it seemed the pack would be out to 9 again with Finland, Norway 2 and Italy 2 all wanting a piece of the action. Koukal tried to make a break a couple of km out from the finish, but Hofstad for Norway bridged the gap first and then down into the stadium all were in contact again. Then the decisive move came from Brink, who put himself from 4th up into the lead just before turning round into the final straight, giving himself the best finish lane and chance to make up for his blow-up in the World Championship relay. Brink held on ahead of Zorzi from Italy to the cheers of the home crowd, with Germany taking 3rd.

So that was it, World Cup season 2002/2003 over. The men's Overall and Sprint World Cups were cleaned up by brothers Fredriksson, with Norway taking the women's double with Skari and Bjoergen. The circus is over, time to pack up the tents and go home.

Overall World Cup - Men

1  SWE  875  Matthias Fredriksson
2  GER  589  Rene Sommerfeldt
3  SWE  441  Joergen Brink
4  GER  441  Axel Teichmann
5  CZE  429  Lukas Bauer  

Overall World Cup - Women

1  NOR  1392 Bente Skari
2  EST  834  Kristina Smigun
3  ITA  713  Gabriella Paruzzi
4  GER  667  Evi Sachenbacher
5  NOR  543  Hilde G Pedersen  

Sprint World Cup - Men

1  SWE  416  Tobias Fredriksson
2  NOR  390  Tor Arne Hetland
3  FIN  279  Lauri Pykkonen
4  SWE  279  Joergen Brink
5  ITA  276  Christian Zorzi 

Sprint World Cup - Women

1  NOR  485  Marit Bjoergen
2  NOR  410  Bente Skari
3  FIN  292  Pirjo Manninen
4  GER  276  Manuela Henkel
5  NOR  263  Anita Moen

March 22 - Sprint World Cup Finale

Another great venue for a Sprint World Cup, and a fitting finale for the Sprint Cup. The trotting track at Borlange was fantastic for spectators, complete with a huge glass enclosed stadium, a big video wall in the centre of the track, and plenty of close-circuit TVs in all the restaurants, cafes and betting rooms. Unfortunately a last minute ruling prevented any on-track betting. The track of artificial snow was put together incredibly quickly the day before the race, and luckily the temperature dropped below zero to keep the track hard and fast.

The men's sprint had some extra excitement, with Swede Thobias Fredriksson a chance to take the overall Sprint Cup from Norwegian Tor-Arne Hetland if everything fell right. The home crowd was pumped after Fredriksson posted the fastest qualifying time and 4 other Swedes made the finals, along with 5 Finns, Hetland and fellow Norwegian Bjerkeli, Zorzi from Italy, Klessen from Germany, Onda from Japan and Narusk from Estonia in his first final. Klessen was in great form, winning most of the starts and also the strutter award for stroking his goatee and kissing his biceps for the camera on the starting line. Some of the Finns got a raw deal, both Manninen and Kinnunen being brought down by dodgy tactics out on the track. In the first semi final Fredriksson made the race from the front, and qualified for the final along with team-mate Peter Larsson who was showing his best from since the season opener in October. Klessen made an agressive overtaking move just before the finish straight in the second semi-final, which proved decisive in knocking out Hetland after Zorzi came flying in the straight. A 2nd place for Hetland in the B-final meant that Fredriksson had to win or come second in the A-final to steal the Sprint Cup, and the Swedish crowd wasn't disappointed. It was a Swedish double, with a photo finish between Fredriksson and Larsson going the way of the new Sprint World Cup Champion.

On the women's side Bjoergen already the Sprint Cup wrapped up, but she could only manage 2nd in the qualifying behind fellow Norwegian Skari. Four other Nowegians made the finals, plus 4 Finns, 2 Germans, a Russian, a Swede, and Canadians Renner and Scott with strong qualifying times 7th and 9th. Renner gave it a good shot but was knocked out in the quarters, while Scott seemed to get faster and faster, making the semis and then knocking out Manninen from Finland and Pedersen from Norway to make the final. The other finalists Skari and Bjoergen, and Kuenzel from Germany. It looked like the Norwegians had it sown up, but a great finish by Scott saw the Canadian overtake Bjoergen in the straight and take second place behind Skari. A great end to the Sprint Cup for the Canadian team, who have had a incredible season.

Men Sprint Freestyle
1   SWE  Thobias Fredriksson (Fastest Qualifier - 2:05.06)
2   SWE  Peter Larsson
3   ITA  Christian Zorzi
4   GER  Dirk Klessen
67  AUS  Paul Murray - 2:14.67
74  AUS  Duane Butcher - 2:23.16
Women Sprint Freestyle
1   NOR  Bente Skari (Fastest Qualifier - 2:21.29)
2   CAN  Beckie Scott
3   NOR  Marit Bjoergen
4   GER  Claudia Kuenzel

March 11 - Drammen Sprint
This looked like a fantastic event, a huge crowd in downtown Drammen, the course twisted and turned round the streets, there was a ripping long downhill and then finally a long uphill finish towards a big church or hall or similar landmark.The only problem was the Eurosport coverage buggered up fully, the broadcast was postponed for over three hours and then it started 10 minutes before it scheduled. The coverage only included from the semi-finals on also.

Again the Finn's cranked in the women's qualifying time trial, 7 went through in the top 16, along with a few Swedes, Norwegians and Germans, and Sarah Renner from Canada having the season of her life. For once Skari from Norway didn't qualify first in a classic sprint, that honour went to Viljanmaa from Finland, and Skari managed 4th. This meant these two met in the first semi-final, along with Viljanmaa's team-mates Venaelaeinen and Sirvio. The 2 V's and Skari stayed together until the uphill finish straight, where Skari and Viljanmaa pulled steadily away and progressed through to the final. In the next semi-final it was Ohrstig from Sweden up against Kuitunen from Finland and Sorkmo from Norway. Ohrstig and Kuitunen lead out, then round a downhill corner Ohrstig put her hand out to protect herself from Sorkmo coming a bit close and pushed the Norwegian over (it was self-defence I swear).Then Kuitunen went well clear, with Henkel and Ohstig side by side as they headed into the finish straight. Ohstig looking the goods until the last 30m and then her bickies were spent and Henkel went through with Kuitunen

In the final Kuitunen lead from Skari early on, then half-way through Viljanmaa pulled up along side and Skari became stuck behind. However as the turned into the final straight Skari jumped into a spare lane and no-one had a chance to hang on. Henkel was the next strongest up the hill and got up for 2nd ahead of Kuitunen.

Women Sprint Classic Final
1   NOR  Bente Skari(4th in Qualification)
2   GER  Manuela Henkel (3)
3   FIN  Virpi Kuitunen (7)
4   FIN  Annmari Viljamaa (1 - 3:01.79)

The Swede's must have done something right before this race as all 5 starters finished in the top 6 in qualifying, with Bjoern Lind taking pole position. In third spot a big step up for Yuichi Onda from Japan, his first time (pretty sure) in a World Cup final. Some of the notables to miss the cut were the last World Cup winner and 4th place Bjerkeli and Hjelmeset. Cut to the first semi final and it was Lind up against Svartedal from Norway and Kurtilla and Palolahti from Finland. Svartedal managed to get a break, and as just about the strongest diagonal stride sprinter in the world no-one had a chance to pull back time up the finish hill. It was very close between the other three all the way up the straight but Kurtilla got there ahead of Lind. In the 2nd semi Onda got out first ahead of Tobias Fredriksson and Brink from Sweden, with Rotchev from Russia bringing up the rear. Fredriksson took over the lead, and then up the final straight the Swedes were too strong and went through comfortably.

So the final, Svartedal up against Brink, Fredriksson and Kurtilla. Svartedal lead out, then Kurtilla took over. Coming into the final corner Svartedal made a good move to get the lead into the hill. And then the Norwegian literally ran like a gazelle, pulling away first and then running the last 30-40m to put the victory out of doubt. Fredriksson and Kurtilla thought this was pretty tricky so they ran as well, and threw themselves over the line with good lunges, Kurtilla getting there by just cm's to take second.

Men Sprint Classic Final
1   NOR  Jens Arne Svartedal(13th in Qualification)
2   FIN  Keijo Kurtilla (8)
3   SWE  Tobias Fredriksson (6)
4   SWE  Jorgen Brink (2)

March 9 - Holmenkollen 30/50
The Holmenkollen 50k is the most famous race on the World Cup, and often the toughest. A fair few Australians have tackled the event, with some hitting the wall big time including Tom Landon-Smith in 1993. However Tom's two-week pre-race preparation did include the World Championship 50km in Falun, the 90km Open Track Vasaloppet, and for good measure the actual 90km Vasaloppet. Ask him about it some time. But no Australians are competing in Holmenkollen this year.

Of course the women's 30km was first, and no surprise winner here its Bente Skari from Norway by over 2 minutes. Skari pretty much lead all the way without any real threats. What was a surprise was the performance of the Finns, Viljanmaa being up there all the way and taking 2nd place, Saarinnen by far her best distance result in 3rd place, and Kuitunen 5th in her first distance World Cup after her two year ban for doping. Great performance by the Finnish girls, but perhaps not the best timing with the Finnish Ski Federation just announcing that one of their skiers (likely to be Varis, who skipped these Norwegian race due to "illness") has recorded a positive A-sample from the World Championships. More on this down below.

In the men's 50km the early leaders included Norwegians Anders Aukland and classic sprint specialist Jens-Arne Svartedal, until after about 15km when Giorgio di Centa from Italy hit the front It didn't last took long howeve before Veerpalu from Estonia took over, and started to create a large gap on the rest of the field. Di Centa stayed up there in 2nd for a long time before hitting the wall in the last 5km and falling to 5th. Aukland seemed to be fading after 35km, but then came storming home to take 2nd place and even give Veerpalu a scare, the Estonian holding on to win by 35 seconds after having a gap on Aukland over 1:40 with about 9km to go. A tough fight for 3rd with Noutrikhine from Russia holding on by just 1.4 sec from Fredriksson from Sweden.

Women 30km Classic, March 8
1  1:21:45.4  Bente Skari, NOR
2   + 2:07.4  Annmari Viljanmaa, FIN
3   + 3:06.5  Aino Kaisa Saarinnen, FIN
4   + 3:16.3  Petra Majdic, SLO
5   + 3:23.1  Virpi Kuitunen, FIN
Men 50km Classic, March 8
1  ?????????  Andrus Veerpalu, EST
2   +   34.8  Anders Aukland, NOR
3   + 1:18.4  Andrei Noutrikhine, RUS
4   + 1:19.8  Mattias Fredriksson, SWE
5   + 1:51.6  Giorgio Di Centa, ITA

New Doping Scandal
The Finnish Ski Federation has announced that one of their skiers recorded a postitive doping test from the recent 2003 World Championships in Val di Fiemme. The name of the skier is not to be announced until after the B sample has been tested next week, however sources in Finland suggest that it is Kaisa Varis, who was given a 5 day holiday at the start of the World Championships due to high heamoglobin. While the Finnish team is still competing in the remaining World Cup events of this season, the word is out that sport will be stripped of all funding in Finland and possibly even be split apart from the other skiing disciplines.

Coincidentally Varis was one of the few top Finnish skiers not to be caught in the doping scandal of Lahti 2001, even though her personal coach at the time Kari-Pekka Kyro (also national coach) was given a life-ban for his involvement.

March 6 - Holmenkollen Sprint
What happened to February many might say, it was full of all kinds of championships. For details from these go to the World Championship and Junior World Championship specials. OK, some World Cups were missed, but so it is. Now in March the World Cup continues again with competitions in Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Oslo World Cup Sprint, March 6
Some question the future of classic sprinting, and especially classic sprints in Norway with Norwegians dominating all the finals. However it was no white-wash this time round. At least, not like 2001 when 7 Norwegian men made the final 8. Only 2 Norwegian women made the semi-finals, and only 4 Norwegian men. A alternative format was used, with 24 skiers qualifying for the finals in 4 heats of 6, and then the fastest 2 automatically qualifying for the semi-finals. The finals were also timed, with the two fastest 3rd placed skiers also progressing to make semi-finals with 5 in each.. Then from the semi-finals the fastest two plus the fastest third place made it to the A-final.

Sweden and Finland were the surprise packets in the women's finals, with all 7 Finns and all 4 Swedes qualifying, 6 Finns even in the top 10. However Skari from Norway was the fastest qualifier by over 2.5s and the clear favourite. It was a long sprint, over 4 minutes 10 for the Skari and over 4:20 for 7th place and beyond. This is too long, and should not be the future of sprint racing. Canadian Sara Renner qualified 19th, but Beckie Scott didn't start. Neither did the Sprint Cup leader Bjoergen, who was apparently sick.

The automatic qualifiers for the semi-finals were Skari and Moen for Norway, Ek and Ohrstig for Sweden, Viljanma, Vaelima, and Manninen from Finland, and Henkel from Germany, with Venaelaeinin (nee Sundkvist) from Finland and Bauer from Germany grabbing the fastest 3rd spots. The first semi-final saw Skari lead all the way, but Henkel was able to match her on the hills and tuck in behind on the downhills, and Venaelaeinin was also in contact. Henkel didn't challenge Skari in the straight and these were the first two, with Venaelaeinin only 2.1 seconds behind and a good chance at the extra final spot. In the other semi-final Vaelimaa also took a lap on the front with Ohrstig on her tail. Moen tried hard but wasn't quite in contact entering the finish straight, and Manninen was 5th until the final straight where she pulled up past Moen. But a slower final and Venaelaeinin was through.

The final and surprise Skari went straight to the front. Ohrstig sat on her tail, but then as a gap started to appear up the middle hill then Henkel made a move and got back onto the Norwegians skis. Skari and Henkel made a break from the others, and on the downhill into the stadium Henkel even managed to stand up and rest a little. Could she give Skari a run for her money? Into the final straight and Henkel gave it a red hot go, but Skari held on and kept her unbeaten run in World Cup classic races this season intact. One of the Finns beginning with V got up for the third by a foot from the other, think it was Vaelimaa but who can tell.

Women Sprint Classic Final
1   NOR  Bente Skari(1st in Qualification, 4:11.50)
2   GER  Manuela Henkel (9)
3   FIN  Kirsi Vaelimaa (2)
4   FIN  Kati Venaelaeinin (8)
5   SWE  Emelie Ohrstig (7)

The men's qualifying and Bjerkeli was the fastest qualifier for Norway. 10 Norwegians made the top 24, but only 4 to the semi-final. The most notable to be knocked out in the quarters was Sprint Cup leader Hetland, who was never in the hunt in his heat. The automatic qualifiers were Bjerkeli and Svartedal for Norway, Matthias and Tobias Fredriksson and Lind for Sweden, Pykkonen from Finland, Klessen from Germany, and Rotchev from Russia who made an amazing comeback to go through first in his quarter after being brought down in a fall with Pasini from Italy and Schluetter from Germany. The lucky extra two were Hjelmeset and Roenning from Norway, Danielsson from Sweden unlucky in a slower heat.

Semi-final 1 and Bjerkeli lead all the away, with Pykkonen in second and then M. Fredriksson and Lind. Fredriksson gave it a shot in the straight and though third was only 0.6 from Bjerkeli. Semi-final 2 and after an early lead by Svartedal Klessen took over. But all were in contact, and on the run down into the stadium Klessen had chosen the wrong lane and T.Fredriksson took the lead. As they bunched up around the corner Klessen was suddenly 5th with no chance in the straight. Fredriksson held onto the lead while Hjelmeset got up for second, but the time was slower and so M. Fredriksson joined his brother in the final.

Pykkonen lead it out in the final with Bjerkeli in number 2. Hjelmeset moved up on the hill and a small gap appeared back to the Swedes. T.Fredriksson just managed to get back on Hjelmeset again before the downhill, with Pykkonen still leading Bjerkeli, and then Tobias moved up to third before they swung around the bottom of the stadium. Pykkonen hit the straight first, with both Bjerkeli and T.Fredriksson swinging wide into clear tracks. Bjerkeli drew level and then ahead of the Finn, with T.Fredriksson also closing. Bjerkeli takes the victory, with Pykkonen holding on by a foot over T.Fredriksson. Only 5th for M. Fredriksson, however very handy points in his hunt for the overall World Cup title.

Men Sprint Classic
1   NOR  Haarvard Bjerkeli (1st in Qualification, 3:46.24)
2   FIN  Lauri Pykkonen (13)
3   SWE  Tobias Fredriksson (14)
4   NOR  Odd-Bjorn Hjelmeset (6)
5   SWE  Mattias Fredriksson (8)

January 27 - Czech & Oberhof World Cups
A little catching up from the last two weekends...

Nove Mesto World Cup, January 18-19

On home soil Lukas Bauer from the Czech Republic trounced the field for his first World Cup victory, in the 15km freestyle on January 18. It was a close fight for the other podium spots, with Hoffmann from Austria jibbing Elofsson from Sweden by 0.6 of a second for the silver, both skiers returning to form after some below-par performances. Only 9 seconds separated 2nd from 8th spot. In the women's 10km Bente Skari from Norway took her 5th win in a row and her 7th for the season. The overall World Cup would be beyond doubt if not for Estonia's Smigun taking her 8th podium place with a third behind Paruzzi of Italy.

Men 15km Freestyle, January 18
1  34:54.8  Lukas Bauer, CZE
2  35:24.9  Christian Hoffmann, AUT
3  35:25.5  Per Elofsson, SWE
4  35:28.5  Giorgio Di Centa, ITa
5  35:28.7  Vincent Vittoz, FRA
Women 10km Freestyle, January 18
1  25:11.8  Bente Skari, NOR
2  25:19.1  Gabriella Paruzzi, ITA
3  25:22.6  Kristina Smigun, EST
4  25:26.6  Evi Sachenbacher, GER
5  25:28.1  Kaisa Varis, FIN

There were relays also in Nove Mesto on January 19th: In the women's 4 by 5km Norway lead the first two classic legs before Germany caught up on the third leg with Kuenzel and then Sachenbacher skied away on the last leg to make it a German victory. Notably Skari did not start in the relay for Norway. Finland gave it a red hot go on the last leg with Varis catching back up to Pedersen from Norway, but Pedersen held on in a sprint to take second. In the men's 4 by 10km there was nothing significant seperating Norway and Italy the entire way, and then Alsgaard outsprinted Schwienbacher to give Norway the win by 0.2 of a second. It was a five-way sprint for third with Stizl for Germany winning out ahead of Austria, Sweden, Czech, and Finland

Oberhof World Cups, January 25-26

Because of the Swedish Championships on at the same time Matthias Fredriksson was the only Swede in Oberhof, and only because he was sitting in second place in the World Cup standings. But one Swede was all it took in the short 15km classic mass start. Fredriksson broke away from the pack with about 3km to go, and incredibly somehow managed to keep the rest of the pack at bay all the way to the finish. The next to stick his head out of the bunch to claim second place was Reto Burgermeister, the first Swiss man on the podium for many a year (possible since Andy Grunenfelder, any ideas anyone?) The USA made their team debut on World Cup for the season (Justin Wadworth was there back in December but he was travelling with the Canadian team) and Kris Freeman was right up in the lead pack for a long time before dropping back to a handy 19th place.

In the women's 10km classic mass start it was Bente Skari again, taking her tally to six wins in a row and eight for the season. Pretty sure this equals someone's record, better check somewhere via the International News links at the top of this page. Skari was already out to a nearly 30 second lead at 5km and had no trouble cruising to victory. A pack of 8 was still fighting it out for second with 2.5km to go, but it was no bunch sprint as places 2-9 were stretched out over 35 seconds. Varis did outsprint Paruzzi for 3rd however. Beckie Scott from Canada finished 12th, only 30 women in the starting field meant that all starters got World Cup points.

Men 15km Classic Mass Start, January 25
1  39:04.0  Matthias Fredriksson, SWE
2  39:09.6  Reto Burgermeister, SUI
3  39:11.5  Frode Estil, NOR
4  39:12.2  Jens Filbrich, GER
5  39:13.6  Fulvio Valbusa, ITA
Women 10km Classic Mass Start, January 25
1  28:37.5  Bente Skari, NOR
2  29:19.3  Hilde G Pedersen, NOR
3  29:23.7  Kaisa Varis, FIN
4  29:24.7  Gabrielle Paruzzi, ITA
5  29:35.3  Anita Moen, NOR

To the sprint relays on Sunday January 26 and there was lots of excitement for those with Eurosport but none for people driving to and from club races in Sweden. Norway with Moen and Pedersen has a good hit out for most of the way against Germany 2 with Kuenzel and Henkel, until Pedersen blew Henkel away on the last leg to win by 6 seconds. Germany 1? A no-start apparently due to illness from Sachenbacher. Germany 3 finished 3rd, followed by Germany 4. Yes only about 4 countries were represented in this the women's 2 by 3 by 1.6km sprint freestyle relay. In the men's 2 by 5 by 1.6km it was a photo finish between Zorzi of Italy (partnered with Di Centa )and Angerer from Germany (partnered with Sommerfeldt). The surprise packet was the USA team of Freeman and Swenson, who had a red hot crack at third place before Norway with Alsgaard (skiing with Svartedal) managed to get away only on the final leg.

January 13 - Another Swedish Victory in Otepaa
The World Cup Sprint Classic was cancelled on Saturday January 11 however the sensational Swedish World Cup season rolled on the next day with a 4th Swedish man taking an individual World Cup Victory in the 30km Classic Mass Start in Otepaa on Sunday January 12. Jorgen Brink was the surprise winner ahead of Anders Aukland from Norway and Andrus Veerpalu from Estonia, though perhaps not such a surprise once the race came down to a 5-way sprint after 30km. Brink had had slightly better success this season in sprint events, qualifying fastest in Clusone, however this victory was his first time on the podium.

In the women's 15km Classic there was no sprint finish, with Bente Skari from Norway continuing her unbeaten run in classic events 14 seconds ahead of Smigun from Estonia, continuing her run of not finishing off the podium in any distance events. Kaisa Varis from Finland who has hardly been sighted this season finished 3rd another minute back.

No North Americans (or Austalians) in World Cup so far this January, however the US Team is reported to be taking the field at the next events in the Czech Republic.

Otepaa World Cups, January 12

Men 30km Classic Mass Start
1  1:20:24.8  Joergen Brink, SWE
2  1:20:26.1  Anders Aukland, NOR
3  1:20:26.3  Andrus Veerpalu, EST
4  1:20:27.1  Matthias Fredriksson, SWE
5  1:20:27.8  Fabio Maj, ITA
Women 15km Classic Mass Start
1  42:38.1  Bente Skari, NOR
2  -------  Kristina Smigun, EST
3  -------  Kaisa Varis, FIN
4  -------  Petra Majdic, SLO
5  -------  Manuela Henkel, GER

January 4 - A World Cup Backlog
Today was the first World Cup of the new year in Kavgolvgo in Russia, however the last World Cups from December haven't been reported on here yet. A quick flashback before we get up to date:

Linz World Cup Sprint, December 19
A great location for a World Cup, with a 650m track that circled (or rather triangled) the hotel where all the athletes were staying. Paul Murray skied a solid race here, which was reported in the Dec 20 Team Report. It was a flat course and a fast race but still quite tough as there was no chance to rest over the two laps. Manninen from Finland and Zorzi from Italy recorded the fastest qualifying times.

Women Sprint Freestyle
1   FIN  Pirjo Manninnen(Fastest Qualifier)
2   NOR  Hilde G Pedersen
3   CAN  Beckie Scott
4   ITA  Karin Moroder

Manninen was on top of the qualifying list but Scott was the most impressive in the early rounds. The Canadian even managed to make a break in her semi final, cruising away from Pedersen and Sprint Cup leader Bjoergen, and was looking the goods to possibly take her first World Cup victory. Renner from Canada also qualified for the finals but was knocked out in the semis. IN the final Scott took the lead after half a lap, and was at the front for over a lap and into the final straight. Unfortunately the finish sprint wasn't there, and she was overtaken by Manninen and Pedersen. Manninen won by only centimetres from the Norwegian, both skiers making pretty average lunges.

Men Sprint Classic
1   SWE  Mikael Ostberg
2   SWE  Tobias Fredriksson
3   ITA  Christian Zorzi (Fastest Qualifier)
4   GER  Rene Sommerfeldt
52  AUS  Paul Murray

Swiss skiers Eigenmann and Von Almen both lead their respective quarter finals for over a lap, with Von Almen mowed down by Hetland from Norway and Mikael Ostberg and Eigenmann was brought down when Brink from Sweden fell on the final turn. Others falling in the quarters were Koukal from Czech and Lind from Sweden. More falls in the semis, with Hetland tripping himself up, and Hogberg from Sweden bringing down Bjerkeli. Into the final and Zorzi lead for a lap and a half before Ostberg overtook him on the back straight. Ostberg skied out of the final corner with a few handy metres and skied away to a very ecstatic victory, with Fredriksson outsprinting Zorzi to make it a Swedish double.

Ramsau World Cup, December 22
Reports from this race were missed in transit, so this is only a second hand half remembered summary. Skari from Norway trounced the women's field, not so surprising with her earlier December form, skiing away on both the classic and freestyle legs. Smigun from Estonia second[Sorry, Smigun 3rd, Bjoergen from Norway 2nd!]. In the men's field the victory went to Teichmann from Germany, with Sweden doing very well with Sodergren in second and Fredriksson, Elofsson, and Brink all in the top 10, also younger Swedes Fredrik Ostberg and Mats Larsson right up there. Sorry about the lack of more information and results, but if you are really interested you would already have found out all the goss from the links at the top of this page.

Kavgolovgo World Cups, January 4

Women 5km Freestyle
1  13:19.5  Kristina Smigun, EST
2  13:35.8  Sabina Valbusa, ITA
3  13:57.9  Gabriella Paruzzi, ITA
4  14:00.3  Evi Sachenbacher, GER
5  14:05.0  Evgenia Medvedeva, RUS

A few of the top Norwegians missing from this event and those who were there didn't smoke. Smigun took the lead at the first split time, 3.6 seconds ahead of Valbusa and 12.4 seconds from Paruzzi. And then there were no threats for the Estonian, who has only been topped in a distance race this season by Skari, and she won her second race of the season by 16 seconds ahed of Valbusa. Paruzzi hung on to third by just a couple of seconds from Sachenbacher, and then Russians filled up most of the rest of the top ten.

Men 10km Freestyle
1  24:05.9  Rene Sommerfeldt, GER
2  24:11.1  Matthias Fredriksson, SWE
3  24:14.3  Axel Teichmann, GER
4  24:22.6  Pietro Piller Cottrer, ITA
5  24:26.7  Tobias Angerer, GER

Fredriksson from Sweden was the second last starter, and at 2.5km he snatched the lead from Sommerfeldt by less than half a second. Dementiev from Russia was only a few seconds back but then he dropped out of the running. Over the next 5km Sommerfeldt kept the pace up, but Fredriksson dropped back to 12 seconds behind, only 5 seconds ahead of Piller Cottrer. Teichmann was the big mover, jumping up to 4th place from outside the top 10. Elofsson was holding onto 6th place just ahead of Vittoz from France. In the final 2.5km Sommerfeldt started to die, but managed to hold onto the lead and his first World Cup victory. Fredriksson just managed to hold off the fast finishing Teichmann and take second place, with Piller Cottrer 4th and Angerer 5th making it three Germans in the top 5. Villisov from Russia squeezed out Brink from Sweden for 6th, while Elofsson dropped back to 9th.

Unfortunately the situation is not rosy on the doping rumour front. From the World Cup races back in November there was reported to be 15 skiers with "irregular" blood, presumably blood profiles indicating probably blood doping rather than high haemoglobin levels which would have resulted in a no-start. Names of countries involved have been circulating, including Germany which prompted a total denial of such things by German coach Jochen Behle.

December 15 - Cogne World Cups
Cogne wasn't supposed to be on the World Cup schedule this season, but after Val di Fiemme gave it up they did a pretty good job putting the event together with only a weeks' notice. A combination of man-made and natural snow scooped up from the surrounding fields saw a 5km loop in pretty good condition, if not with a few small stones. The mass start competitions took three laps of a 3.3km loop to spread out the field before heading up on a narrower track into the trees for the rest of the 5km loop. The sprint 1.5km loop had one major hill and a couple of shorter climbs, and a fair whack of double poling in and out of the stadium.

Cogne World Cup Sprint, December 15
It started snowing about 7am the morning of the Cogne sprints, became quite heavy about an hour before the starts and then eased up for the qualification round. This changed the track from rocket fast to a pretty average speed and spread out the qualifying times a bit more than usual. The temperature also rose, changing the grip from blue stick to something like Swix VR50-60.

Women Sprint Classic
1   NOR  Bente Skari(Fastest Qualifier - 3:55.45)
2   NOR  Marit Bjoergen
3   NOR  Hilde G Pedersen
4   GER  Manuela Henkel

Skari smoked the women's field over 3 seconds faster than team-mate and Sprint World Cup leader Bjoergen. Six Norwegians quarter-finals and 5 of these made it to the semi-finals. Majdic from Slovenia the fourth fastest qualifier looked good in her quarter final and lead for most of her semi-final, but Skari then overtook and pulled away in the straight, and Pedersen mowed the Slovenian down with about 5m to go and outlunged her to take the other final spot. From the other semi-final Bjoergen and Henkel were too good for Moen and third fastest qualifier Vaelimaa from Finland. Majdic won the B-final ahead of Moen. Skari lead the entire way in the final and by the time they hit the final straight the race was all over. Bjoergen was the only one who looked like she could have mixed it with Skari and was comfortably second, with Pedersen making it a Norwegian trifecta.

Men Sprint Classic
1   NOR  Tor-Arne Hetland
2   FIN  Lauri Pyykoenen(Fastest Qualifier - 3:28.07)
3   NOR  Jens Arne Svartedal
4   GER  Dirk Klessen
68  AUS  Paul Murray - 3:48.21

For more information on Paul's race, look to the Australian Team Report update December 16, and the Murray Files edition 1.

Pyykoenen fom Finland had a couple of cranking qualifying times in World Cup a few years ago, but this was about the first time he went on with it and impressed in the finals. Lind from Sweden returned to form for the first time this season qualifying third fastest, five Swedes qualifying including Danielsson who placed 4th in the Stockholm WC classic sprint last year and Frederick Ostberg in 16th. Hetland qualified 11th, just behind a couple of the younger Norwegians Dahl and Hornvendt. Other new-comers to the sprint finals were Teichmann and Klessen from Germany.

Danielsson was severely dealt with by Hetland in the 4th quarter final, how the Norwegian was not disqualified (he changed classic tracks as they rounded into the stadium straight onto the front of Danielsson's skis and knocked him over) needs a lot of explanation by the TDs. Hetland went on to cruise through his semi-final, Klessen having to work a lot harder to shut out Hogberg from Sweden, and Pyykoenen and Svartedal had it sown up against Ostberg and Rotchev from Russia. (Rotchev won the B-final ahead of Ostberg). In the final Pyykoenen lead most of the way, and did a "Hetland" (but not as bad) cutting off and knocking down Svartedal. The Finn was still in front with 150m to go but then Hetland blew him away with just about as good a display of double-pole sprinting you will ever see.

Cogne World Cups, December 14

Women 15km Classic Mass Start
1  44:13.2  Bente Skari, NOR
2   + 28.3  Kristina Smigun, EST
3   + 56.7  Anita Moen, NOR
4   + 57.7  Gabriella Paruzzi, ITA
5 + 1.02.9  Marit Bjoergen, NOR

Skari went of the front pretty soon after the start, and after the first 3.3km lap lead a pack of about 20 through the stadium. Another 3.3km and the lead group was whittled down to 6 - Skari, Smigun, Paruzzi, Moen, Bjoergen, and Majdic from Slovenia. On the third short lap Skari made her move, with Smigun the only skier able to follow but not for long. With 5km to go Skari was looking the goods, holding a small break over Smigun and seemingly cruisiing effortlessly. Half way round the 5km there was a wicked hill, and the gap grew as Smigun pretty much broke into a walk. But she wasn't Robinson Crusoe as most of the field really struggled on this hill, Moen trying a couple of skates as Paruzzi moved up into third. Skari looked to ease off in the closing km, and won comfortably by 28 seconds ahead of Smigun. Moen sat on Paruzzi until about 50 to go, then sprinted past for third. Then it was a Norwegian party lower down as well, with Bjoergen, Roaldseth, Pedersen, and Bay all making it into the top 10. A good ski by Sweden's Elin Ek for 14th place. Smigun's lead over Skari in the overall World Cup was reduced by 20 points and is now just 22 points.

Men 30km Classic Mass Start
1  1:22:34.6  Frode Estil, NOR
2  1:22:34.6  Anders Aukland, NOR
3  1:22:37.3  Matthias Fredriksson, SWE
4  1:22:53.6  Anders Sodergren, SWE
5  1:23:10.6  Ivan Batory, SVK

There was a massive pack early on, with lots of skiers taking a bit of a punt up front. After the first 10km when the track switched from the 3.3km to the 5km loop then the field started to break up. With 10km to go there were two groups of 5 at the front about 10-15 seconds apart - the first had Sodergren and Fredriksson from Sweden, Aukland and Estil from Norway, and Batory from Solvakia; the second had Czech Lukas Bauer driving the train of Vittoz from France, Schlundikov from Russia and Norwegians Bjonviken and Skjeldal. Schlundikov did an impressive job of working his way up from number 71 on the starting grid - after 10km he was still back in 30th place. Wadsworth from the USA was up there but fell off the back of the lead pack after 10km and then pulled out after working his way steadily back through the field. The leading group of 5 stayed together until about 3km to go, when Batory was spat. The Swedes lead into the last significant uphill, but Aukland and Estil went for it the last 100m over the top and dropped Sodergren. Fredriksson dug deep and just latched back on, and the three swung around into the stadium for the last 200m all in a row with Aukland leading. Fredriksson's bikkies were spent and the two Norwegians went for it as though they had only skied 1km and not 30. Aukland look to have it, but Estil kept hammering all the way to the line and produced the better lunge to win by about 2cm in a photo finish. Fredriksson's 3rd place gave him the lead in the overall world cup by 23 points ahead of German Sommerfeldt, who had a shocker finishing 53rd.

December 11 - Clusone World Cup Sprints
The World Cup moved today to Clusone in Italy, North-East from Milan. The Clusone sprint was originally supposed to be classic, but was changed to freestyle because of thin snow conditions. The course was relatively flat with a couple of short hills, two laps of a 700m loop in mushy conditions.

Manninen from Finland showed her form from 2001 and was the fastest female qualifier, over 2 seconds ahead of Kuenzel from Germany, with Bjoergen from Norway the Dusseldorf WC sprint winner in 3rd place. Other notable qualifiers included Scott from Canada in 7th and Ohrstig from Sweden in 14th - Ohrstig direct from her 2nd place in the Scandinavian Cup sprint in Norway on December 6 (see Australian Team report Dec 8). Those knocked out in the quarter-finals included Smigun from Estonia, Henkel and Sachenbacher from Germany, and Valbusa from Italy. The first semi-final saw Sidko from Russia fall and then take down Manninen, leaving Norwegians Moen and Sorkmo with a clear run through to the final. If ever there was a case for obstruction (as applied in season 2001-2002) this was one with Manninen, however perhaps the obstruction rules are being interpreted differently this season.. In the second semi Scott worked way too hard early on, and half way through the second lap Kuenzel and Bjoergen broke away and cruised through to the final. In the final Kuenzel sat for the first lap then made a good move up to the front at the start of the second lap. Bjoergen went with her, overtook on the last short hill and then held on by a couple of metres in the finish sprint to win her second sprint WC in a row. Sorkmo third ahead of Moen.

In the men's qualification Brink from Sweden was the fastest, 0.1 of a second ahead of Pykkonen from Finland. Rotchev the in-form Russian this season was 3rd, and Dusseldorf sprint WC winner Larsson from Sweden qualified in 13th. Notable absentees from the final 16 included Swedes Lind and Mikael Ostberg (though younger brother Frederik qualified 9th) and Norwegians Bjerkeli, Iversen, and Alsgaard. There were a couple of falls in the quarter-finals, eliminating Neuner from Austria, Pasini from Italy, and also Rotchev who tried unsuccessfully to jump over Pasini. The first semi contained 3 Swedes - Brink, Larsson, and Hogberg, plus Czech "Mad Dog " Koukal. Larsson tired after the first lap and dropped back, Brink and Hogberg managed to get clear and though Koukal made a last minute effort to close the gap it was too late. In the other semi was Olympic sprint medalists Hetland and Zorzi, plus Sommerfeldt from Germany and Palolahti from Finland. Zorzi went out hard, but on the second lap Sommerfeldt made a good tactical move and took the lead while Hetland was stuck behind Zorzi. The German made a small break, and then Hetland outsprinted Zorzi in the straight to take the other final spot. To the A-final and the Swedes Brink and Hogberg lead for the first lap. Hetland charged to the front in the lapping zone, then Sommerfeldt tried to make his move at the same place as in the semi. This time Hetland was up to the challenge and kept him out. Hetland was too strong in the straight and won his 5th World Cup sprint (plus he has Olympic and World Championship golds), Sommerfeldt second and Hogberg third.

Clusone World Cup Sprint, December 11

Women Sprint Freestyle
1   NOR  Marit Bjoergen
2   GER  Claudia Kuenzel
3   NOR  Maj-Helen Sorkmo
(Fastest Qualifier Pirjo Manninen - 3:49.95)
Men Sprint Freestyle
1   NOR  Tor-Arne Hetland
2   GER  Rene Sommerfeldt
3   SWE  Anders Hogberg
(Fastest Qualifier Joergen Brink - 3:22.65)

For full results head to the FIS site, or try other links from here.

Bjoergen is now well clear in the Sprint Cup with 200 points ahead of Kuenzel on 112 and Moen on 110. Hetland leads the men's rankings with 160 points ahead of Larsson on 145 and Sommerfeldt on 116.

The next World Cups have been moved to Cogne near Aosta, due to lack of snow in Val di Fiemme. On Saturday Dec 14 there are mass start 15km and 30km for women and men in classic style, and then on Sunday a classic sprint. This latter will be the season World Cup debut for Paul Murray, currently Australia's only WC skier.

December 7 - Capol New FIS Race Director
Former Swiss racer Juerg Capol will take over as FIS Cross Country Race Director from June 1 2003, it was announced yesterday. Capol has an impressive professional resume, and most recently has worked as Director in the Silvaplana Tourist Office in the Engadin and Head of Marketing for the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in St Moritz. For the Australian connection, Capol came to Australia for the 1994 Kangaroo Hoppet, however was sick and unable to race.

Capol will take over from Swede Bengt-Erik Bengtsson, who for years has been confusing Australians with the similarity between his name and Ben Derrick. The press release from FIS made no mention on Bengtsson's plans for the future[Added later - Bengtsson is retiring after 20 years with FIS].

Davos World Cups, December 7
Some surprise victories in the freestyle World Cups in Davos below. Only brief comments due to jet-lag.

Men 15km Freestyle
1  36:05.9  Matthias Fredriksson, SWE
2  36:07.9  Vincent Vittoz, FRA
3  36:14.8  Fulvio Valbusa, ITA
4  36:17.6  Pietro Piller Cottrer, ITA
5  36:21.2  Lukas Bauer, CZE

With last year's World Cup Champion Per Elofsson way out of form, team-mate Fredriksson has stepped up to take over the mantle for Sweden. Normally achieving his best results in classic events, Fredriksson won by just 2 seconds from Vittoz of France. Vittoz now leads the overall World Cup by 11 points to Fredriksson, with Bauer in third place another 20 points back. To note, Justin Wadsworth from the USA opened his World Cup season with a 22nd place.

Women 10km Freestyle
1  26:39.5  Bente Skari, NOR
2  26:42.3  Kristina Smigun, EST
3  27:01.4  Gabriella Paruzzi, ITA
4  27:02.4  Valentina Shevchenko, UKR
5  27:02.8  Nina Gavriljuk, RUS

While no-one will take bets against Skari in a classic race, not many would back her for the win in a skate. Until today anyhow. Smigun's second place still sees her in lead in the overall World Cup, with Skari 28 points behind. Jenny Olsson from Sweden showed she can skate also with another top 10 placing. Beckie Scott from Canada placed 14th, with team-mate Sarah Renner scoring her first World Cup points for the season in 29th place.

There are rumours circulating now (probably substantiated by the time this gets posted) that the World Cups scheduled for Val di Fiemme on December 14-15 will be moved to Cogne on the other side of Italy, due to lack of snow (right now the VDF stadium is certainly bare!).The Clusone sprint set for December 11 should be okay, however seems to have changed to freestyle technique.

December 1 - The World Cup Begins
While the opening World Cup was over a month ago in Dusseldorf (A report on the Dusseldorf Sprint World Cup in October is in Spring News 2002), the circus really started last weekend November 22-23 in Kiruna in Sweden. This weekend just gone the circuit moved to Kussamo in Finland and reports for both these events are included below.

Kuusamo World Cup Races, November 30

Men 15km Classic
1  38:21.4  Vasilli Rotchev, RUS
2    + 3.3  Lukas Bauer, CZE
3   + 19.7  Axel Teichmann, GER
4   + 28.1  Andreas Schluetter, GER
5   + 31.0  Rene Sommerfeldt, GER

This would have been a very rich trifecta to pick. The top 3 skiers had at least 3 thing in common: None of them had been on a World Cup podium before (though Bauer had been 4th four times and Teichmann 5th twice); all of them are 25 years old or younger; and all three took medals at World Junior Championships, between 1977 and 1980. The Germans must have jagged the wax for the whole team, with three skiers in the top 5 (and Filbricht 14th), and they must have made some changes from the women's event earlier where the German girls didn't do anything special.

The first Norwegian was Anders Aukland in 8th. Contrast this with the opening classic World Cup last season, when Norwegian men took the top 8 places in Muonio.

Women 10km Classic
1  28:32.7  Bente Skari, NOR
2   + 24.3  Kristina Smigun, EST
3   + 46.1  Lillia Vassiliera, RUS
4   + 48.4  Annmari Viljanmaa, FIN
5   + 54.4  Jenny Olsson, SWE

Centrebet was taking no odds on Skari in the opening classic World Cup for good reason. Smigun's second place moved her up to the lead in the overall World Cup. The big upset came from Russian Vasiliera - not a new young Russian but a new old one, born 1967. Going into this season ranked 330 in the world, she hadn't raced World Cup for Russia since 2000 when she was a national team starter in Kavgolovgo, however did well with a 17th place in the Dusseldorf sprint in October. Finland and Sweden would no doubt be happy with "surprise" top ten results from lesser known skiers, Vaelimaa from Finland also in 6th place.

Kiruna World Cup Races, November 23

Men 10km Freestyle
1  23:59.9  Vincent Vittoz, FRA
2  24:06.5  Pietro Piller-Cottrer, ITA
3  24:09.5  Fulvio Valbusa, ITA
4  24:17.8  Tor Arne Hetland, NOR
5  24:18.0  Nikolai Bolchakov, RUS

Vittoz claimed his first ever World Cup victory and also the first ever for France. The 27 year old had been twice on the podium before, and also won the 2003 World Rollerskiiing Championship pursuit event in Italy during the Australian winter. Piller Cottrer and Valbusa are no strangers to the podium, the most notable observation is that after Hetland in 4th the next Norwegian was Alsgaard in 16th. Three Swedes made the top 10, but not the reigning World Cup Champion Elofsson from Sweden, whose poor form in the lead up to this season has been well documented on other websites and he finished 25th.

Women 5km Freestyle
1  13:39.7  Evi Sachenbacher, GER
=1 13:39.7  Kristina Smigun, EST
3  13:41.2  Claudia Kuenzel, GER
4  13:41.6  Beckie Scott, CAN
5  13:46.0  Gabriella Paruzzi, ITA

A tied World Cup, Sachenbacher and Smigun inseparable after 5km. While Smigun has been there before, this is Sachenbacher's first distance World Cup victory, adding to her sprint win in Garmisch last year. Her team-mate Kuenzel was not far off in third - 1.5 seconds - and Scott produced her best World Cup result outside of North America less than half a second behind Kuenzel. Neummannova was in Kiruna prior to the event, but withdrew and returned to the Czech Republic with reports that she is pregnant and will miss the entire season. With Russian Tchepalova also absent for the same reason, and three leading Russians out for two years for doping the women's World Cup field is wide open and calling for new skiers to make a claim.

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