Norwegian skier Petter Eliassen won Sweden’s annual Vasaloppet on Sunday, the tough long-distance race that ends in the country’s cultural heartland of Dalarna. Of the top 10 skiers finishing the race, eight were Norwegians.
Eliassen won the prestigious test of strength on his first try, beating the favoured Anders Aukland, also of Norway. Eliassen skied all 90 kilometers of the race from Salen to Mora in what amounted to a duel with Aukland. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that the 29-year-old from Trøndelag managed to maintain a tempo that Aukland couldn’t match.
Eliassen skied the 90 kilometers (54 miles) in just four hours, one minute and 48 seconds. Aukland finished just five seconds behind him and Stanisalav Rezac of the Czech Republic finished third, with a time of four hours, two minutes and 12 seconds. Øystein Pettersen of Norway was fourth, followed by five other Norwegians and one Swede, Jerry Ahrlin, who placed eighth.
Eliassen became the first debutant to win Vasaloppet since 1997. Sweden’s own favourites to win, Johan Olsson and Jørgen Brink, had to withdraw because of illness.
“It went very well for me today,” Eliassen told Sweden’s state broadcaster SVT. “I had hoped for a spot on the winners’ platform but a victory was too much to dream about.”
Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland won the women’s Vasaloppet. She was also making her debut in the legendary race, but she has a long track record as one of the world’s top skiers and arch rival of Norway’s Marit Bjørgen. Only two Norwegian women finished in the top 10, Laila Kveli in fourth place and Solfrid Braathen in ninth. Around 14,000 skiers took part in the race.