It was described as “the worst that can happen,” and it did: A professional video crew taping the action in Saturday’s traditional Birkebeiner ski race over the mountains between Rena and Lillehammer collided with this year’s winner of the overall World Cup, Martin Johnsrud Sundby.
It was the proverbial wake-up call for both athletes and crews alike at major sporting events: Newspaper Aftenposten reported how a video crew from Ski Classics swooped in to document how Sundby had found his window of opportunity to win Birkebeiner. Then Sundby suddenly switched tracks and into what Ski Classics director David Nilsson called “the snowmobile corridor.” They collided.
Sundby was tossed into the air and fell but was not injured. He even went on to win the 54-kilometer race in just two hours, 20 minutes and 53.6 seconds. It was a scary moment, though, with Sundby recalling how the snowmobile “came at high speed and mowed me down.” Sundby, who had stayed home in Norway instead of taking part in the final World Cup events in Quebec over the weekend, also broke a ski pole but got through the remaining 21.5 kilometers of the race in winning style.
“Martin had no blame in this, it’s the driver (of the snowmobile) who must be more careful,” Nilsson told Aftenposten. They’ve apologized, both to Martin and his team. “From our point of view, this is the worst thing that can happen,” Nilsson said. “For someone from our crew to influence the sports presentation is very serious.” He added that the driver of the snowmobile was very upset and sorry.
With most of Norway’s top female skiers taking part in the World Cup finale, long-distance skiing star Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland was the first woman to cross the finish line in the Birkebeiner, which attracted a record number of foreign participants this year. Kowalczyk skied the course in two hours, 46 minutes and 42.7 seconds.